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FireChat was a tool for revolution. Then it disappeared.

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses the rise and sudden disappearance of the mobile app FireChat, which was used by pro-democracy movements around the world to circumvent internet censorship and surveillance through its mesh network technology.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] FireChat's Capabilities and Usage

1. What made FireChat an effective tool for revolution?

  • FireChat allowed people to communicate without an internet connection by leveraging Bluetooth and WiFi signals to create a peer-to-peer mesh network.
  • This enabled communication to bypass centralized and often monopolized internet service providers.
  • The larger the crowd using FireChat, the better the technology worked, as messages could "bounce" from phone to phone.
  • FireChat was used by pro-democracy movements in countries like Iran, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Ecuador, and Russia to coordinate resistance against government authorities.

2. How did FireChat evolve over time?

  • In 2014, after the Hong Kong protests, it was discovered that FireChat messages were not secure.
  • In 2015, Open Garden updated the app to include end-to-end encryption, a feature many modern messaging apps still lack.
  • Open Garden also released FireChat Alerts, allowing rescue workers to send offline messages during emergencies.

[02] The Disappearance of FireChat

1. What happened to FireChat?

  • In February 2020, as COVID-19 swept the globe, access to FireChat was completely cut off without explanation.
  • No acquisition announcement or public statement from the founders about the closure of FireChat or its parent company Open Garden could be found.
  • The article suggests that FireChat disappeared because it was a threat to the centralized and monopolistic internet systems it was able to circumvent.

2. What is the current status of the FireChat website?

  • If you visit the official FireChat website, you are greeted with a message that your IP address has been blocked for suspicious activity.
  • The Internet Archive view of the site shows the same message, indicating the website is no longer accessible.
  • The Open Garden website also shows a "403 Forbidden" error, suggesting the company is no longer operational.
Shared by Daniel Chen ยท
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