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From Burning Man to the Hong Kong protests: the accidental rise of FireChat

When pro-democracy protests erupted in Hong Kong late last month, many demonstrators feared the government would shut down the internet. Those fears never materialized, but the specter of a crackdown combined with congested data networks were enough to drive thousands to download FireChat — a smartphone application that lets users communicate without an internet connection.

The app, which launched in March, has seen 500,000 downloads in Hong Kong since protests began on September 27th, driving it to the top spot on the Apple App Store and Google Play in Hong Kong. At its peak, FireChat saw 37,000 simultaneous users, each spending, on average, more than two and a half minutes on the app — and that’s not counting those who used the app…

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