FireChat – A Different Chat App

Launched last week in the AppStore by the San-Francisco based start-up, Open Garden – FireChat is the latest chat app in the market. FireChat added a new and fun twist to the chat app market while at the same time giving a solution to users’ questions and mistrust of technology intrusion into their private life and a threat to their online safety.

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First of all, FireChat uses a feature Apple introduced in the latest version of its iOS7 called multipeer-connectivity. Basically the app does not use traditional internet connectivity but allows phones to connect to each other directly through Bluetooth or WiFi as an alternative connectivity. This feature offers security and privacy to its users because messages sent using FireChat do not go through any system operated by the company that created FireChat, Open Garden. Messages do not go through wireless networks owned by telecommunication companies. Messages are simply transfer using the device-to-device scheme. FireChat users can only sent message to other users who are within 100 feet. It is a sort of “nearby” chat app that brings back the idea of talking to people in your proximity.

Second of all, Firechat allows its users complete anonymity. No need to sign up and give away all your personal data. The only information needed is an invented username and that’s it. Users can remain anonymous while chatting with people in their proximity.

Third of all, sent messages take a very untraditional path. None of the messages or their contents is stored on the company’s server. This simply means that user’s communication cannot be intercepted by any government agency, companies or hackers.

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The San-Francisco based start-up, Open Garden released just last month its mains product – the Open Garden app that lets users share wireless connection with other to create what is call a “mesh network”. The company hopes “to make Internet access ubiquitous”  and to disrupt the telecommunication market. Micha Benoliel, CEO and founder says “the app shows how smartphones can be set free from cellular networks (…) by sniffing around for available web-connected devices, choosing the best way to get online automatically.”

According to Benoliel, peer-to-peer mobile communication and mesh network “could prove important in countries with minimal communications infrastructure. You can see Google spending billions on fiber and balloons, but this is not going to solve the problem of ubiquitous mobile connectivity. We need to create small internets that can function on their own and then connect them to the big Internet.” In other words, instead of planning to use drones and other methods, companies like Facebook and Google should invest in solution like this one.

What FireChat offers to its users seems to be a good mix of safety, privacy, anonymity and fun as the app has been downloaded more than 100,000 times a day since its release, adding 1.14 new users a second. It reached the no.1  iOS social networking app in Australia, Chile and Taiwan and no.2 in Belgium, Norway, Israel and Sweden. Open Garden CEO said: “it’s doing very well and we’re almost overwhelmed by the success. (…) We’ll see if FireChat will be a revolution. As of now it’s fair to say it’s an explosion.”

FireChat is only available on Apples as it contains the appropriate technology to create a network that Android does not have.

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