Facebook is testing out a new service that hopes to encourage Facebook users to check in at physical retail stores. Presumably, the idea is that by checking in at retail stores friends and followers might be more inclined to visit the same store. In exchange for checking in at the retail locations, Facebook users get access to Wi-Fi hotspots at no cost.
The system requires the business to provide Internet service and Facebook provides a free router that will direct users to businesses Facebook page after checking in. Facebook has confirmed that it is conducting a "small test with a few local businesses." Exactly, which businesses are participating in the test is unknown.
Some stores may also be offering specials where discounts to shoppers who check in using the new service. This could prove to be an interesting way to monetize Facebook access for mobile users in a time when most users are starting to access Facebook via a mobile device rather than a computer.
The special Facebook routers will allow non-Facebook users or people who simply don't want to check in to access the Internet for free. People who don't check in with Facebook to access the hotspot for free would have to enter a password provided by the business. It's unclear right now if this free Wi-Fi service will catch on and be expanded to other areas by Facebook.