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Why do I have to open my browser to put in the password after connecting to WiFi?

  • H otels, restaurants and other public places, usually provide Internet access to their guests through what is generally called a Captive Portal. A captive portal is a hardware/software system installed on the hotel network (or restaurant, etc.) that listens to requests for Internet access by those who connected to their WiFi. Then, the captive portal has the ability to redirect every unauthenticated request to an internal web server whose purpose is to authenticate the user, presenting them a login page on their browser, asking for credentials, username and/or password.

    This is why hotels generally have an open WiFi (no password to connect to the WiFi), but then, if you want to access the Internet, you need to open your browser. It is for entering your credentials. On modern systems, on laptops and mobile phones, it's the operating system that checks whether you are behind a captive portal or not, and, if you are, automatically opens a web browser for you to login. If your system is a few years old, this may not happen automatically, so you may be asked to open the browser yourself.

    Then, when the browser is open, you should be automatically redirected to the captive portal login page, but sometimes this doesn't happen. At WifiGem, we have been dealing with this problem for a long time, trying to find a solution for that (read our article WiFi Login page Not Showing Up). When you are on the login page, you must have the login credentials, username and password, that the hotel provides when you check in.

    There are many advantages from using a captive portal:

    - Guest access is limited to the period of their stay
    - WiFi is password-free and the hotel can allow anyone to visit certain websites, typically the hotel's website
    - Guest traffic is separate from that of the hotel staff, for security reasons
    - The login page is generally customized with the hotel brand name, logo, text, etc.
    - Username and password are stored in a database, and there is no way to hack the WiFi password, because... there's no WiFi password.

    Published on July 24, 2020

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