Starbucks plans to pay for its free Wi-Fi with a walled garden

Unlike many coffee shops, Starbucks has long been stubborn about giving away free Wi-Fi access to customers, choosing instead to build membership programs and other limited accounts. A few months ago they gave up and said fine, sure, free Wi-Fi, whatever. Mashable has an interview with a company executive who explains an upcoming Starbucks Digital Network which will have content like the New York Times, games, some kind of Apple iTunes interface. Companies pay to be included, other advertisers pay to advertise there. It seems like a win-win but it also seems a bit like AOL from many years ago: a potentially useful obstacle to getting to the actual internet.

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