FireChat mobile app powers Hong Kong protests

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

A suddenly popular mobile tool is helping student demonstrators in Hong Kong route around network censorship.

FireChat is described as an "off-the-grid" messaging app that lets users communicate with other users over Bluetooth without having to connect to the internet.

As of Monday, it was the single most downloaded app from the Hong Kong iOS App Store. It is also available for Android. The more users, the better the FireChat network performs, and the further the signal reaches. The device-to-device range is about 40-70 meters.

In the photo above, a protester lies on the street as she joins others in blocking the main street to the financial Central district in front of the government headquarters in Hong Kong. Democracy protesters there have defied tear gas and police baton charges to stand firm in the centre of the global financial hub, one of the biggest political challenges for Beijing since the Tiananmen Square crackdown 25 years ago.

Beijing condemned the student protesters, and warned against foreign interference as they have continued to gather in business and tourist districts of the city.

And below, Micha Benoliel, CEO and co-founder of FireChat maker Open Garden, takes a picture on a main road that pro-democracy protesters have blocked at the Central financial district in Hong Kong today.

Open Garden says more than 200,000 new users have downloaded FireChat in Hong Kong alone in the last two days.

Here's a Reuters video feature on the phenomenon, and a related article. Cory blogged about this several days ago, but the FireChat network and global attention paid to it keeps growing.

 REUTERS/Bobby Yip


And below, a few photos from Benoliel's Instagram.