I made a crude Venn diagram to illustrate how these two types of wireless communications relate:
While wireless LANs refer to any local area network (LAN) that a mobile user can connect to through a wireless (radio) connection; Wi-Fi (short for "wireless fidelity") is a term for certain types of WLANs that use specifications in the 802.11 wireless protocol family.
According to WhatIs.com:
The term Wi-Fi was created by an organization called the Wi-Fi Alliance, which oversees tests that certify product interoperability. A product that passes the alliance tests is given the label "Wi-Fi certified" (a registered trademark).
Interestingly enough, the latest standard, 802.11n, ratification is planned for September 2009.
To familiarize yourself with how different wireless technologies differ with Wi-Fi, here are a few other resources from our site and sister site, SearchNetworkingChannel.com:
- Differences between Wi-Fi, WLAN and WiMax
- Differences between Wi-Fi, WiMax and broadband
- Choosing between Wi-Fi, wireless and broadband
You can learn more about wireless protocols and specifications, plus how to configure and deploy a WLAN in our wireless protocols learning guide.
This was first published in September 2009