NEW YORK - Google, Yahoo, eBay, and Microsoft, competitors on the Web, all have the same idea for marketing themselves this holiday season: temporarily provide free WiFi access in airports, airplanes, and public places.
Google Inc. said yesterday that it would provide free WiFi in 47 airports, including in Boston, Houston, and Seattle, through Jan. 15. The airports handle about 35 percent of US air travelers, the company said.
Travelers who connect to a wireless “hot spot’’ at one of the airports will see a browser page that gives them the chance to donate to three charities and have the donation matched by Google.
The 47 airports include some, such as McCarran International in Las Vegas, that already provide free WiFi. Sponsorships help the airport keep the service free.
Google is also providing free WiFi on Virgin America flights for the same period.
EBay Inc., the Web auction powerhouse, will provide free WiFi on some Delta Air Lines Inc. planes during the week of Thanksgiving.
Logging on will take users first to eBay’s holiday page, but they will be free to roam from there.
Since September, Microsoft Corp. has given away WiFi access at some hotels and airports, encouraging users to make a query on the company’s new search engine, Bing.
On Monday, Yahoo Inc. said it is giving away WiFi access in New York City’s Times Square. One street of the busy area was converted into pedestrian zone with lawn chairs last spring, giving more of a reason to dawdle and perhaps flip open a laptop.
Boingo Wireless Inc., which operates for-pay hot spots in airports and is part of Google’s project, said it has been getting good results with free WiFi campaigns sponsored by hotel chains.
The campaigns typically offer users 15 to 20 minutes of access after they watch a 30-second video advertisement.