Brilliant New FireChat for iPhone Needs no Internet Connection

16 September 2014

New York: Mobile app stores are packed with messaging apps from WhatsApp to Tango and their many imitators. But FireChat is noticeable. It’s the only one that can be used without cell-phone reception.

FireChat is an open-source, real time chat widget created on Firebase. It provides completely safe multi-user, multi-room chat with flexible validation, moderator features, user presence and search, chat invitations, private messaging, and over.

FireChat is the only app the lets you chat without an Internet or phone connection. It employs hidden iOS feature to send messages. The iOS 7 feature is called Multipeer Connectivity Framework (MCF) that creates a wireless mesh, or peer-to –peer network. Rather than sending messages using a mobile signal, the free app develops its own network where each mobile on it becomes a ‘node’ which means people in close proximity can message other nodes. Messages are also sent over long distance by sending data from one node to another anonymously.

According to Micha Benoliel, CEO and cofounder of startup Open Garden, which built FireChat, the smartphone can be set free from cellular networks with this app. He expects to allow a lot of Internet-optional apps with the future release of software tools that will assist developers develop FireChat – style apps for iPhone or for Mac, Android, and Windows devices. He also says that the approach is very appealing for multiplayer gaming and all types of communication apps.

According to Anthony DiPasquale, a developer with consultancy Thoughbot, FireChat is the only app that’s been created to utilize multipeer connectivity, maybe because the feature remains unknown to most Apple developers. He hopes people start to use it soon. As per him, there is possibly a great use for multipeer connectivity in every situation where people in a group want to share some sort of information.

Currently, the latest feature of iOS7 only supports data moving directly from one device to another and from one device to numerous others. However, Open Garden’s upcoming software will broaden the feature so that data can hop between two iPhones not within each other’s range by means of intermediary devices. That approach, known as mesh networking, is at the heart of numerous existing projects to build disaster-proof or community-controlled communications networks.

Apps created to use such device-to-device schemes can propose privacy and security advantages over those that are dependent on the Internet. For instance, messages sent using FireChat to close by devices don’t go through any systems functioned by either Open Garden or a wireless carrier.

That signifies the content of a message and metadata could not be harvested from a central communications hub by a government agency or attacker. This process of communication is resistant to firewalls. Recent announcements about large-scale observation of online services and the steady litany of data violations make this a good time for applications that don’t depend on central servers. As users become more alert of the privacy and security implications of technologies they trust in, moving in the direction of local, ad-hoc networking makes much sense.

However, peer-to-peer and mesh networking applications also come with their own threats, since an eavesdropper could get access to local traffic just by utilizing a device within range.

Open Garden’s main product is an app that enables Android devices to share their Internet connections. However, that won’t be coming to the iPhone anytime soon as the feature that FireChat relies on cannot be employed to share data connectivity.

Peer-to-peer mobile communications and mesh networks could be important mainly countries with least communications infrastructure. You can see Google investing billions of balloons and fibre, but this is not going to resolve the problem of omnipresent mobile connectivity. The spread of Android phones across the world will make mesh networking possible. It is essential to create small Internets that can work on their own and connect them to the big Internet.

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