Messengers that work without the Internet

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In 2016, the UN Coun­cil named the right to access the Inter­net as one of the inalien­able human rights. But when the throne begins to swing under the dic­ta­tor, he is ready to do any­thing to retain pow­er. Includ­ing — to turn off the net­work.

Right now in Belarus des­per­ate con­fronta­tion unfolds. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of cit­i­zens in many cities of the coun­try take to the streets, defend­ing their free­dom and dig­ni­ty. To pre­vent them, the author­i­ties in every pos­si­ble way spoil the work of the Inter­net. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion has not yet been com­plete­ly dis­abled, but since yes­ter­day, many users from Belarus have been com­plain­ing about the inac­ces­si­bil­i­ty of many resources, includ­ing social net­works. Even the unsink­able Telegram works inter­mit­tent­ly. So the regime is try­ing to pre­vent the pro­test­ers from exchang­ing infor­ma­tion and coor­di­nat­ing their actions. How­ev­er, there are a num­ber of instant mes­sen­gers that work even with the Inter­net turned off.

Bridgefy

Bridge­fy is a stand­alone mes­sen­ger mar­ket­ed by devel­op­ers as a com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool at music fes­ti­vals, sport­ing events, or places where there is sim­ply no con­nec­tion. How­ev­er, the appli­ca­tion has long been cho­sen by the pro­test­ers. It became espe­cial­ly pop­u­lar in 2019 dur­ing the protests in Hong Kong.

The prin­ci­ple of oper­a­tion of the offline mes­sen­ger is extreme­ly sim­ple. Bridge­fy com­mu­ni­cates via Blue­tooth with oth­er smart­phones run­ning the app. Three oper­at­ing modes are sup­port­ed.

The first is a direct com­mu­ni­ca­tion mode between two users. Blue­tooth mes­sag­ing is pos­si­ble with­in a radius of 100 meters. To com­mu­ni­cate, users must be in each oth­er’s con­tact list.

The sec­ond is net­work mode. In this case, two users exchange mes­sages using Bridge­fy to relay oth­er users. So, user A can write to user B using user B’s smart­phone as a repeater. In this case, the trans­mis­sion range of the mes­sage is increased to 200 meters. A chain can con­tain an unlim­it­ed num­ber of users. It is impor­tant to note that relay users can­not read oth­er peo­ple’s mes­sages.

The third is the broad­cast mode. In this mode, the user can send a mes­sage to all Bridge­fy users with­in 100 meters around him, even if they are not in his con­tact list. It’s the per­fect tool for quick­ly shar­ing news or tac­ti­cal guid­ance in a crowd.

In the pres­ence of the Inter­net, Bridge­fy can be used as a reg­u­lar mes­sen­ger.

Bridgey for Android, iOS

Signal Offline Messenger

Sig­nal Offline Mes­sen­ger is vague­ly sim­i­lar to Bridge­fy, but has a num­ber of fea­tures. The main dif­fer­ence is that the app uses Wi-Fi instead of Blue­tooth to com­mu­ni­cate. Because of this, Sig­nal Offline is bet­ter suit­ed for trans­fer­ring large media files between a group of users. But there are no relay and broad­cast modes.

Sig­nal Offline Mes­sen­ger for Android.

Rumble

Rum­ble is an open source stand­alone microblog­ging appli­ca­tion. It allows you to chat and share pho­tos with­out using the Inter­net, via WiFi or Blue­tooth. There is a mul­ti­cast mode that allows you to send infor­ma­tion to all devices with­in the range of Wi-Fi. The devel­op­ers them­selves claim that the appli­ca­tion can be used to cre­ate an impromp­tu infra­struc­ture where the Inter­net is not avail­able or is care­ful­ly con­trolled.

Rum­ble is not dis­trib­uted through app stores, but as an APK file that needs to be down­loaded from the devel­op­ers’ web­site and uploaded to the smart­phone’s mem­o­ry man­u­al­ly. You can down­load the APK file for Android from here.

FireChat

Anoth­er broad­cast app that pro­test­ers have long loved. The appli­ca­tion does not involve one-on-one com­mu­ni­ca­tion, you can only com­mu­ni­cate in pub­lic chats. The mes­sage is sent to all users who are in the same chat room as the sender. For com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Blue­tooth and Wi-Fi are used, the direct range is about 60 meters.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, at the moment Firechat is not avail­able in the App­Store and Google Play, but by search­ing Google you can find many places where there is an APK file for man­u­al instal­la­tion. For exam­ple, here or here.

Briar

Bri­ar is a decen­tral­ized mes­sen­ger that runs inside the Tor net­work. At the same time, traf­fic is encrypt­ed not only with stan­dard end-to-end encryp­tion, but also with the Tor pro­to­col. The devel­op­ers posi­tion this appli­ca­tion as an ide­al tool for civ­il activists and jour­nal­ists work­ing in dan­ger­ous con­di­tions.

Of course, to access the Tor net­work, the smart­phone must be con­nect­ed to the reg­u­lar Inter­net. But if there is no net­work at all, Bri­ar can turn into a tool for trans­fer­ring data between users via Blue­tooth or Wi-Fi.

Bri­ar for Android.



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