FireChat is a messaging app that lets iOS and Android smartphone users chat without a cellular or Internet connection. Th app once again was in the limelight as Hong Kong pro-democracy protestors were using the app fearing the government would shut down cellphone networks in the protest area.
Developed by San Francisco based company called Open Garden, FireChat in its default “Everyone” mode works just like any other messaging apps with chatting over the Internet. When in the “Nearby” mode, the app uses Bluetooth to connect nearby phones to form a wireless mesh network that enables chat messages to pass from phone to phone without going through the Internet.
The ability to work off-the-grid makes FireChat particularly useful in areas where the Internet is restricted. It is also harder for government to monitor the chat messages by nature of the app’s peer-to-peer connectivity. FireChat had previously been used during the Internet blackouts in Iran and Iraq earlier this year.