FireChat is a messaging app that lets you talk anonymously to people within 200 feet of your location without an internet connection — but this “Nearby” mode was previously limited to showing chats from those using the same operating system. This was because the app used Apple’s Multipeer Connectivity Framework in iOS 7, but made use of its own mesh networking technology on Android devices.
Today, FireChat has got an update that brings such offline chats cross-platform. The company behind FireChat, Open Garden, says this was made possible through the development of a peer-to-peer mesh networking technology across iOS and Android.
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FireChat launched to quite some fanfare in March this year. Open Garden says its messaging app is best used for situations where no reliable internet connectivity is available, including concerts, conferences, outdoor festivals and on public transport. If you’re connected, you get access to a wider geographical range of ‘firechats’ — basically groups chatting about different topics.
Open Garden CEO and co-founder Micha Benoliel said that off-the-grid messaging between iOS and Android helps people connect even when there is no infrastructure, though the 200 feet limitation does make you wonder why you can’t simply talk directly to the person you want to reach instead.
However, FireChat’s chief marketing officer Christophe Daligault told TNW this is primarily because the concept of FireChat is different from other messaging apps such as WhatsApp and WeChat, as it’s not meant as a way to share messages privately with specific people. Instead, anyone can create a firechat and invite anyone to join the conversation.
Though there doesn’t seem to be that many situations in which people need to turn to FireChat, Open Garden says it has reached the top 10 among social networking apps in over a hundred countries — and its popularity is particularly prominent in countries that may have poor internet access or government restrictions on internet.
FireChat’s chief marketing officer Christophe Daligault told TNW that the app has seen a surge in downloads in Iraq over the past week, coming to about 40,000 downloads. For comparison, FireChat’s total number of downloads all over the world number about five million now. In terms of usage, Daligault revealed that Iraq is currently ranked second after the US. This happened as the Iraqi government ordered a total internet shutdown in five of the nation’s 19 provinces and limited internet access in the rest of the country.
FireChat is currently available in English, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian and Spanish.
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