Technology

Must-Have Mobile Apps: Firechat

Text with friends who don’t have cell coverage

Firechat is the messaging app that ingeniously utilizes an iOS feature to provide free text messaging with or without Wi-Fi or network connection. It uses Multipeer Connectivity frameworks to connect to devices nearby through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, thus establishing a wireless mesh network with the engaged mobile devices.

In “Nearby” mode, Firechat opens sessions with devices in the same vicinity, which can send out messages anonymously to anyone within range (the messages themselves are not private, as anyone in the surrounding area can access them). The crowdsourced connectivity of Firechat opens a plethora of doors for app developers, but at present, it provides unprecedented free messaging no matter the connectivity environment. The ability to communicate when connectivity has been compromised or is unavailable means that everything from natural disasters to densely populated places like sports arenas need not be the technological nightmares they once were.

The anonymous nature of Firechat (users register with only a name) has obvious benefits for anyone looking to communicate incognito and the lack of a centrally located shutoff makes Firechat an anti-censorship dream come true. The app’s latest version allows users to open their own chats specific to certain interest groups or locations, and it even features an “Everyone” mode that displays conversations across the country.

Firechat represents just one of the many possibilities presented with mesh technologies, and its position as one of the top 10 social networking apps in 80 countries is no accident.