Firechat got some hot press last month when it debuted on Apple’s iPhone platform. In case you didn’t hear, it’s a free mesh communications app which means you can chat with nearby people without needing an Internet connection or mobile data service active. We’ve talked about this stuff before, notably with TinCan, but this new service offers a lot more functionality.
The cool thing about Firechat is the fact that it offers local and general chat in the one app. The general chat is done through the Internet, and turns out to be a bit of a mixed bag, since it’s unmoderated. The result is a screen full of everything from stupid user names (currently H.M. The Queen is chatting about her corgis) to expletive filled nonsense. In amongst the drivel, however, there are people trying to have a normal conversation.
The real beauty of the app however comes with the ‘nearby’ chat function. This operates using only WiFi or Bluetooth, so your chats are totally off grid, so to speak. This is great for chatting with people in your proximity, say at a concert, conference or festival, or even underground like the subway where Internet connectivity is typically patchy.
The range of the nearby chats is only 30 feet, so that’s definitely a constraint, but it may be possible in the future to extend that through peer to peer linking of WiFi connected devices. For now, it’s strictly for those nearby. Funnily enough. In the meantime, if you’re interested in juvenile chat from anonymous kids, then download and have a play around with the country wide general chat. It’s like your very own reality TV show in your phone without the laughs.