Airchat is a free communication tool, free as in ‘free beer’ and free as in ‘Jeremy Hammond must be freed’. It doesn’t need the internet infrastructure, nor does it need a cellphone network, instead it relies on any available radio link (or any device capable of transmitting audio – we even made a prototype working with light/laser based transmissions).
This project was conceived not only from our lessons learned in the Egyptian, Libyan and Syrian revolutions, but also from the experience of OccupyWallStreet and Plaza del Sol. We have considered the availability of extremely cheap modern radio devices (like those handhelds produced in China), to start thinking about new ways in which people can free themselves from expensive, commercial, government controlled and highly surveilled infrastructure.
Jott, a messaging app that works without a data plan or WiFi connection, has caught on among junior high and high school students, according to co-founder Jared Allgood. He says the app more than doubled to half a million active users in March, up from 150,000 active users previous.
Allgood told TechCrunch that the app continues to gain momentum, adding 15,000 to 20,000 users a day. That’s consistent with numbers from App Annie. The app started ranking steadily in the top 75 on iOS for social networking in the U.S. in mid-April.
The reason? Teens who don’t have a data plan that will allow them to text are using their iPods and iPads to message each other on a closed network within a 100-foot area within school limits.
But Firechat maker Open Garden has big plans. Here is one evolution these apps and their underlying technology could take:
The creator of a popular free smartphone messaging app, which doesn’t need a network signal and can’t be blocked by governments, says he plans to turn it into a full mobile carrier that will never charge for calls or messages.
Micha Benoliel, the entrepreneur behind FireChat — downloaded six million times since it launched last year for iOS and Android devices — has told WIRED he plans to turn his peer-to-peer messaging app into a “big telco that’s free and is going to remain free”.
It makes sense if you look at the next billion who is about to get smartphones:
“There’s a huge opportunity — in three or four years, you’ll have four to five billion smartphones on the market, 80 per cent of them in emerging markets, 80 per cent of those in big cities where people don’t necessarily pay for data. We want to go after that market. We believe we can take a big share of it.”
The company says that, at five percent urban penetration, it can guarantee message delivery to anyone on the network within 20 minutes, even with no signal.
Mesh networks are here.