Have you ever had a delayed flight and instead of binge-watching a season of The Office you had a tremendous amount of difficulty using your laptop to connect to the airport’s Wi-Fi? The issue often involves the login page of the semi-open network failing to populate. For those unaware, many unsecured Wi-Fi networks require you to create and enter a username/password combination before accessing the network; this feature is often called a Captive Portal.
After searching every variant of “my computer won’t connect to the hotel Wi-Fi” I could think of, I finally found something useful and practical: NeverSSL.com; by typing that link that into the URL bar, the login page should always populate.
What causes a portal/hotspot page from loading?
Typically, the reason is that the portal software which runs the wireless network wasn’t able to intercept your web page request due to it being a secure SSL page. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a browser and a web server, which then ensures that passing data remains secure and private. Without being able to intercept your page request, the wireless network can’t redirect you to their terms and conditions page, thus preventing your access.
SSL is an excellent thing to have on websites, especially while you are on an unsecured wireless network.
Another reason this can occur is due to the wide adoption of HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) on websites, not just the ones that transmit private data. The protocol HSTS (HTTP Strict Transport Security) forces browsers to use HTTPS on all sites, including sites that only use HTTP. So, when you try to request access for the Captive Portal (login screen), the redirect is often blocked by the browser because it attempts to seek HTTPS before trying to connect to the server.
How does NeverSSL.com fix login problems?
NeverSSL.com will never use SSL (shocking, I know), so it will trigger the page interception and load the terms and conditions page of the wireless network; once this is completed, you can then freely browse all of the SSL-protected sites you wish. Furthermore, NeverSSL.com will essentially force a redirect by using a site that doesn’t require security protocols like HTTPS, just an unsecured and unencrypted connection which allows for the redirect.
So, the next time you are stuck in a hotel, airport, or coffee shop which offers Wi-Fi, you should never have to interrupt your Netflix show again and revert to making small talk with those around you (you can thank me later).