Burning Man App Becomes Tool for Hong Kong Protestors
FireChat, the offline chat app, has seen 100,000 downloads in the territory since Sunday
Now into a fifth day of pro-democracy protests that have seen downtown Hong Kong, one of the busiest districts in the world, come to a virtual stand still, demonstrators have been notable for their preparedness.
Goggles, face masks, plastic ponchos and umbrellas have been standard items carried by most protestors to counter the elements, pepper spray and tear gas. Water, food and mobile battery packs are also reportedly essential parts of the kit for demonstrators expecting to dig in for the long haul. But the most intriguing tool has been the smartphone app FireChat, which up until now was mostly popular with music festivalgoers and Burning Man attendees rather than political rallies.
FireChat is a free app that uses Bluetooth technology for its chat platform, negating the need for WiFi or a cellular connection. Launched in March and developed by the small, privately held company Open Garden, the app has been downloaded over 100,000 times in Hong Kong since Sunday, reported The Wall Street Journal on Monday.
Although it is still unclear how many protestors are using it, the leaders of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement expect that authorities may be tempted to shut down the cell network to cause disruption and keep organizers from communicating.
The Chinese government, which governs Hong Kong as a Special Administrative Region, is known for tight controls on communications inside its borders. On Monday, the Chinese government reportedly shut down mobile-photo sharing app Instagram in various parts of the country.