Novel Messaging app Download on rise amid Hong Kong Protests
A new mobile messaging app that enables users to communicate in the absence internet connection or Wi-Fi is becoming a hit a among Hong Kong protesters.
The free app known as FireChat app, launched in March was downloaded in Hong Kong by more than 100,000 protesters between Sunday morning and Monday morning, soon after the rumors spread that the city's authorities might turn off the cell network.
Thousands of protesters have taken over central areas of Hong Kong and are camped outside government offices. Protesters are angry at changes being made in Hong Kong's political system, which will allow direct elections but only from a pool of candidates approved by Beijing.
Tens of thousands have occupied the streets and have refused to move until China grants genuine democracy.
FireChat is owned by a Francisco-based company Open Garden, and is an ideal communication tool for mass gatherings. The app works by allowing phones to connect with each other over short distances through their Bluetooth connections even if a network is down.
FireChat is supported by mesh networking, which let phones unite to form a temporary internet. So far, mesh networks have proven themselves quite effective, as they don't rely on existing cable and wireless network.
After police used tear gas and pepper spray on the crowds on Sunday night, new users signed up for the app in Hong Kong the same night. Many protesters are still worried that the city authorities could close down the cellphone networks. However, they were relieved to find a way to communicate with their friends and family.
Open Garden has regularly posted messages on Facebook. One recent posting reads, "We hope FireChat will serve you well. Please remember messages are not encrypted at this point. Please be cautious about what you say and do not use your real name".
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