Technology

Internet shutdown? Why Bridgefy app that enables offline messaging is trending in India

Logo of Bridgefy

Logo of Bridgefy  

In the light of #IndiansAgainstCAB protests and Internet shutdowns, Bridgefy app uses a mesh system to let users communicate through Bluetooth despite being in an ‘off the grid’ environment

This year, India has been plunged into and out of digital darkness more times than any other country. Internet shutdowns mean no access to WhatsApp, social media, iMessage and other 2G, 3G and 4G-based activities. However, Bridgefy has been trending on Twitter for the past few days and it has everything to do with #IndiansAgainstCAB.

Bridgefy started out as a messaging app that essentially aimed at saving on server costs, which it still does. On Bridgefy’s official website, the listed use cases feature capitalist ones (ad distribution) and emergency ones (natural disasters), but then there is the unmentioned — but obvious — case of a state-wide or national Internet shutdown. So, one can understand why the app has gone viral this year in various parts of the world, including Hong Kong during the anti-government protests.

How it works...

Similar to Firechat, Bridgefy leverages a mobilephone’s Bluetooth capabilities to offer Internet-free messaging.... think of a WiFi-free WhatsApp. Despite Firechat being more popular and well-known, Bridgefy is helmed for its better stability.

So what can one send over Bridgefy? Texts, locations, natural disaster alerts, payments, educational content and game moves, among forms of media.

How Bridgefy picturises messages moving through the mesh of devices connected via Bluetooth

How Bridgefy picturises messages moving through the mesh of devices connected via Bluetooth   | Photo Credit: Bridgefy/YouTube

There are three modes in which Bridgefy works. The first is ‘one to one’ whereby two users turn their Bluetooth on and, within about 100 metres of each other, can privately message. The second and currently most used is the ‘one-to-one long-distance’ system where one can communicate with people more than 330 feet away by connecting through other Bridgefy users found in the middle as carriers. The third is the ‘broadcast’ system, which has also been useful in the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) protests wherein a user can send a mass-message to other Bridgefy users in their vicinity even if the other users are not in their contacts list.

Perhaps, the biggest disclaimer here is that Bridgefy requires an Internet connection to activate the technology that powers the app.

So far, on social media, Bridgefy has not seen any endorsements from politicians or companies and the urge to acquire the app seem to come from journalists and programmers across India.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 6:43:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/internet-shutdown-why-bridgefy-app-that-enables-offline-messaging-is-trending-in-india/article30336067.ece

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