It begins with all modes of transport, airports and streetlights shutting down. Then the banks and stock exchange — backbone of a country’s economy — crumble. If this wasn’t chaotic enough, the electricity, water supply and with it, the internet too goes down. That’s the plot of Die Hard 4 and this massive interruption of urban life in the movie — a result of hacking — is called “Fire Sale” by the perpetrators. But if this movie were to be released now, users of the messaging app FireChat wouldn’t have been impressed, and have found the hackers in Die Hard 4 severely lacking in basic IT smarts. The filmy cyber criminals and masterminds of FireSale, who crashed the communication networks, clearly didn’t take into account the existence of something like FireChat, which takes mobile communication offline.
The latest version of FireChat, available at www.firech.at, has now added private off-the-grid messaging (OM) to its list of features.
We’ve previously talked about how FireChat allows users to send messages to public chatrooms without having access to the internet or even cellular networks. Because of this unique feature, the app became a must at large gatherings such as concerts and public protests. Users could easily communicate via chatrooms only, using text updates and images. But back then they didn’t have an option in this app of sending direct messages. The latest update, which brings OM to FireChat, makes point-to-point conversations possible. Unlike instant messages, where data sent from a particular device bounces off servers till reaching the recipient, an OM will invisibly transmit through a chain of mobile devices with FireChat installed on them, till it reaches the recipient, and only then does the message gets displayed.
FireChat allows users to send messages to public chatrooms without having access to the internet or even cellphone networks. Because of this unique feature, the app has become a must-have at large gatherings such as concerts and public protests.
If, say, your friend (who has FireChat on their phone) goes missing at a concert, all you’ll have to do is send them a FireChat text with directions to reach you. The message will then bounce off all the phones with FireChat installed on them till it zeroes in on your friend. FireChat blind spots can also be easily tackled.
And it’s not like FireChat only works well offline. The application can make use of an available internet connection as and when necessary, without eating into your data plan. The FireChat algorithm ensures that all the messages sent by users follow not only the shortest but also the cheapest path to the recipient.
According to the FireChat team, it will take about 5% of the population to be FireChat users for the network to cover an entire city. Unlike conventional networks that get slower and slower as user density increases in a given area, the Mesh Technology (used for offline messaging) from FireChat becomes more efficient. Essentially, if some day we have as many FireChat users as those who use WhatsApp now, staying connected with each other even without the internet will become a genuine