This little-known iOS feature will change the way we connect

“A new iOS app called FireChat [free via Apple’s App Store] is blowing up in the App Store,” Christina Bonnington reports for Wired. “But it’s not the app itself that’s causing such a stir, it’s the underlying networking technology [into which] it taps.”

“The idea behind FireChat is simple. It’s a chatting app. After registering with a name — no email address or other personal identifiers required — you’re dropped into a fast-moving chatroom of ‘Everyone’ using it in your country,” Bonnington reports. “The interesting aspect, however, is the ‘Nearby’ option. Here, the app uses Apple’s Multipeer Connectivity framework, essentially a peer-to-peer feature that lets you share messages (and soon photos) with other app users nearby, regardless of whether you have an actual Wi-Fi or cellular connection.”

“You read that correctly. You’re able to send and receive messages even when you don’t have a data connection,” Bonnington reports. “FireChat accomplishes this magic by allowing each device to connect directly to others nearby using Bluetooth, peer-to-peer Wi-Fi, or traditional Wi-Fi networks. Because you’re connecting directly with other users, you don’t actually need to be connected over Wi-Fi or a cellular network.”

Much more in the full article here.

57 Comments

        1. bluetooth range is about 5-10m. That range is close enough to have two or more people speak to each other. Messaging is for distant mean of communication, connecting people far away.

          Why would I want to chat with the person besides me?

      1. Assuming this was built by have halfway intelligent developers, the only thing a chat program should allow malicious users to do is say something rude to you – and assuming they are in Bluetooth range, they can already do that without an app.

        I would only worry about needing protection if this was made by Adobe or Microsoft.

        If they made a peer-to-peer chat program, I bet it would be full of scripting capabilities built on top 10-year old spaghetti code, which less 1% of users have any legitimate use for, but hackers find endless ways to exploit.

    1. It is always important to be frightened of anything new. The company that developed this new way of communicating is also refusing to issue aluminum foil hats for those who are not wanting to try this new technology as it has found that they already use the hats.

      1. @313c7ro. Frightened is a fairly loaded word. Most people would do well to have a healthy suspicion for the new until proven safe. The young are renown for jumping in to just about anything new (where new = fashionable, hip, etc), without thinking first. It’s why death by misadventure is so high among the young and naive, and also why so much malware is successful. There is a big difference between being “frightened” to try something new, and being healthily cautious until proven safe.

        1. The rewards go to the adventurous. History is filled with people who are brave enough to try something new. There is no mention in history of the cautious. The wise take note of the failures and navigate around them to still take chances.

          1. Look at game theory, not moral fibre. The rewards go to the adventurous, but only statistically — no more than 5%. Another 30% break even and 65% take it in the shorts. It’s odds like these that common people observe and that deter them, more than desire or effort, from testing fate. In addition, there is a natural predilection to risk avoidance that is understandably associated with the roughly half of the under-30 population concerned with birthing and child-rearing, but which is also conspicuously absent from history, albeit without overt calumny.

            1. Good points. I believe that progress is only possible if we change what we are doing now and that risk takers are those elements of change and progress. Even in failure, risk takers learn and take that learning into more wonderful adventures in possibility. Boldly go where no man has gone before! Also, we always get the woman we want.

            2. Women have a voice in that last bit, as well. At least in this century. And even in the unlamented past of arranged marriages, our innate and selfless stewardship of the precious gene pool — males do not bother with it — often led us to select another mate in secret, passing off the child as legitimate.

            3. Of course the woman has a choice but women tend to choose risk takers. The male risk taker is more likely to approach women before his timid counterpart and get first right of refusal. Arranged marriages too have a likelihood of being a match between more desirable women and risk taking men as these men are seen as go-getters. As far as illegitimate children are concerned, women will likely be receptive to the occasional tryst with an enterprising male again rather than his reticent counterpart.

            1. No, I’m just an ex HALO paratrooper. But I’m sure you have and you’re so keen to be first at something you’ve done it without a parachute.

  1. The security spec of Bluetooth LE allows this. (I hate Bluetooth). It is indeed potentially dangerous. As for ‘peer-to-peer’ Wi-Fi, it requires user approval. If you approve, it leaves you WIDE OPEN! Everything you type and send is available to EVERYONE in the viscidity or anyone who may be surveilling people at the other end. It’s a very bad idea. The relational folks will love it and later regret it.

    NOT interested. I fully expect sob stories. 😥

    “If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.”

    1. When I must message a high-stakes client about a confidential matter, I always use a loyal courier. Security in such a case is paramount. However, I do not sacrifice style. The message is hand-written, in my distinctive left-handed cursive fashion, on faintly perfumed stationery, signed with a looping H. J. S. and sealed in a Domtar Baronial envelope (6 bar) with red wax impressed with the same monogram.

      There are protocols, and then there are Protocols.

      1. I’d expect nothing less from you. What fun!

        I big HI! and virtual <> for the weekend, dear goddess. 😀

        Me this weekend: I’ve been bashing at the opening paragraph of my current story series, an exercise in short, sweet simplicity. I’ve also started reading a new book called ‘The Light Age’. Wonderfully dense prose, a good learning experience as well as story. But I miss the every-other-paragraph rushing to my dictionary of Neal Stephenson’s ‘Diamond Age’, which I finished yesterday. 😉

        Oh, my BGM (soundtrack) while I read these Steampunk books is the wonderful musician Estroe. I recommend anything-at-all by her, which makes her remarkable.

      1. I actually tried to take Latin while I was in high school, but the class was only given at the across-town high school. Which meant I would have had to spend a class hour getting there, and hour there, then an hour getting back. *grumble*

        In my ignorance, I simply quoted the most commonly used out-of-context, pseudo-translation that conveyed my point. Thanks for the interesting point. So who was the sergeant? 😉

        1. My boyfriend in high school kept saying ‘in hoc signo vinces.’
          Turned out to be the motto on the packet of Pall Mall cigarettes that he smoked behind the gym.

            1. No, Teddy spoke that bit of Latin as code for ‘I’m sneaking out for a smoke’ to his friends. Unfiltered were considered hard core. Once I followed them and found out the origin of the phrase. He had deduced that teachers knew all about Pig Latin to disguise intent, and came up with this dodge. I guess you had to be there…

            2. No, I get it! I occasionally enjoy cigars with one of my brothers. The taste and the buzz can be decent. Thankfully, I inherited no addiction genes.

              Now back to that word ‘scratcher’. What?!

  2. So much talk.

    This is the second “mesh networking” app and like it or not, it is the next thing to come. Imagine a network created by peers in a massive reunion where cell towers have been locked down or ban from use.

    Read about it and see the possibilities unfolding.

    1. I have often contemplated whether Apple’s ultimate goal, and end move would be a world-wide mesh network of Apple products that bypasses all carriers, and even the internet itself.

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