Warchalking, WiBos, Warplugging, etc.

Gareth Branwyn garethb2 at EARTHLINK.NET
Tue Jul 16 17:47:38 UTC 2002

In my 2001 WOTY submissions, I suggested that a lot of new jargon and
slang would likely be emerging in '02 around Wi-Fi networking technology
and the growing subculture that's embracing it. This is certainly
proving to be the case.

The "war" prefix is becoming the new "e" (or "cyber" or "i") in these
circles, with "wardriving," "warchalking," "warplugging" and others.
"War" in this case comes from "wardialing," the hacker practice of
getting a computer to dial a list of phone numbers in search of modem
tones (for possible hacker entry). Wardialing, in turn, gets its name
from the 1993 film "Wargames," which introduced the idea to legions of
would be hacker teens.

WARDRIVING is the practice of cruising around in a car with a Wi-Fi
wireless-enabled computer running a "sniffer" program in an effort to
discover accessible wireless access points (which one can then use to
get on the Internet for free).

WARCHALKING has got to be one of the most memetically viral
terms/concepts ever to spread across the Internet (and into offline
media). The idea was proposed by a British computer geek to use a
hobo-type symbolic language to mark open Wi-Fi access points. He started
a webblog to discuss the idea and proposed an initial set of symbols.
The free wireless network community grabbed hold of the idea and hasn't
let go. Warchalk marks are now showing up on buildings and sidewalks in
cities, on college campuses, even in suburban neighborhoods. Like "All
your base are belong to us," it's showing up everywhere, online, in
cartoons, on T-shirts, on the evening news, etc. It's even given rise to
spoofs: chalkchalking, whorechalking, pubchalking and spin-offs:
blogchalking. It's definitely the geek meme du jour.

Warchalking/driving has given rise to the term WI-BOS (or WiBos) for
"Wireless Hobos"), those who engage in the practice of "chalking" and
hunting down chalked access points. On the initial website
(www.warchalking.org), there's even a little wallet card you can print
out with the symbols on it and a place to mark down your local access nodes.

The fellow who dreamt up the concept has coined the term MEMENUKED to
label what has happened to him in the wake of the warchalk idea. He's
been inundated with email, media requests, and the like. Memenuked is
what happens to you when you unleash an idea that is so memetically
viral that the response becomes overwhelming. Don't know if the term
will catch on or not, but it's now riding the "carrier wave" of the
warchalking phenom.

WARPLUGGING was coined by a wardriving/chalking enthusiast to
describe the act of using the 32-character network identifier (called an
SSID) on a wireless network to advertise that network (or "plug"
something else) to those who stumble upon it. Examples: "Gentle Dental
Wireless," "Mars network, open for all," "please_bring_pizza."

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