Have you ever wondered what you would do if suddenly you were unable to connect to the Internet to communicate with others or complete your daily tasks?
Most of us are used to relying on the Internet for many things because of its varied uses. So anything that hinders access to the web and other online services will make things like file sharing, shopping, media streaming and others virtually impossible.
However, with mesh messaging, you can communicate with other people without a permanent managed network and stay connected with each other.
In this article, we’ll help you understand what mesh messaging is, how it is used today, and explain how it works. If you want to know more about the different types of networks, we recommend reading our guide to computer networks
What is mesh messaging?
Mesh messaging, or offline messaging, is a peer-to-peer networking system that allows users to communicate with each other without relying on cellular or Wi-Fi networks or any other government-controlled infrastructure.
A good example of the use of mesh messages is the 2019 Hong Kong protests. Hundreds of thousands of civilians took to the streets and held anti-extradition demonstrations against the Fugitive Criminal Law amendment bill that would allow the government to repatriate suspected criminals to China.
The protests continued for weeks, and the police used brutal and aggressive means to suppress the efforts. Consequently, the protesters needed a way to communicate with each other, independent of an internet connection, in order to organize themselves and stay safe.
To do this, they used standalone smartphone apps like FireChat and Bridgefy, which work by creating their own networks outside the Internet and the masts of cellular operators. They mostly rely on a WiFi or Bluetooth connection that exists between two or more phones.
Both apps recorded thousands of downloads in Hong Kong alone during the protests, because there were a lot of people in the protest areas, which generally slowed down the cellular network.
Some of the ideal mesh messaging applications include:
- During natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and fires, among others.
- Jungle trekking or group camping in remote areas without reception
- In a war zone or during mass protests where the government may turn off the Internet.
- When you have no mobile data on your phone or your plan has expired
- When you are traveling and you are not sitting next to family or friends in the same car or plane.
How does Mesh Messaging work
Mesh messages send data over Bluetooth or dedicated Wi-Fi, similar to what your phone configures when trying to connect a home security camera or smart device to the network.
The system is built in such a way that no one can track or control your conversations. This way, neither hackers nor government surveillance agencies can connect to cell towers to block communication channels, disable websites you are trying to use to communicate with others, or even listen to anything broadcast to your ISP. / p>
The applications used for meshed messaging do not need traditional online networks. In addition, they establish connections between users in the same way as torrent programs, instead of fetching files from a central repository.
If you have a grid messaging app installed on your smartphone and many other people in the same area have the same app, it will be easier to relay messages to each other like a relay team is passing the baton. The transmission of the message, however, is invisible to anyone who sends the message to others, so other people cannot read it as they go along.
The main principle at work in a mesh messaging network is communication between devices. This allows short-range Bluetooth connections to form a network and bypass cellular or Wi-Fi networks, as well as any other government-controlled infrastructure.
The main purpose of meshed messaging is not necessarily to keep it out of sight of government radars, but to provide communications in poorly connected areas or remote locations without any communications. It’s also handy during stadium events where many fans interact with each other, or in areas affected by natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods that disrupt cell towers and Wi-Fi networks.
Mesh messaging apps use a mesh network to connect users’ devices to each other via Bluetooth, allowing a message to travel from one device to another until it reaches the intended person’s inbox.
Since the communication range between a phone and a phone via Bluetooth is usually about 100 meters, you can communicate with other people within a radius of up to 200 meters. It is more effective when two or more phones are within range of each other, otherwise it will affect signal strength.
Over long distances, however, your message will hop between the nearest user and create a mesh network until it reaches the intended person. For example, phone A cannot directly connect to phone C, the mesh messaging app will forward the message from A to C through phone B.
In addition, the people forwarding the message do not have to be on your contact list or take any further action in order for it to reach your intended purpose. This makes it harder for a government or hackers to shut it down as there is no single point of failure to help shut it down.
The more users on a mesh network, the better mesh messaging works.
How to use the network messaging application
To give you an idea of ??how Mesh messaging works, we’ve tested one of the popular stand-alone apps, Bridgefy, and here’s a step-by-step guide to using it.
- The first step is to go to the Google Play Store or App Store, depending on your phone, and download the Bridgefy app. In this guide, we are using an Android smartphone with Android version 9, so we will download the app from the Google Play Store.
- In the Bridgefy list, you will find two applications: Bridgefy-Offline Messaging and Bridgefy Alerts. Download the Bridgefy-Offline Messaging option.
- Then launch the application and customize it by clicking “Get Started” on the new screen.
- Finish the setup by adding a username (preferably the one your contacts know you by) and click “Finish setup”.
- Click Next on the new screen and give the application permission to access your Bluetooth location settings and contact list.
- If a pop-up window appears asking you to update your location settings, click Enable and move the Location slider to On. Press the return button on your phone to return to Bridgefy
- You are now ready to use Bridgefy for grid messaging. On the chats screen, you will find two red buttons: Share Love and Add Friend. You can use them to invite friends to join you on Bridgefy, or add a friend to your list who is probably already using the app.
- If you click on Contacts, you will see people in your contact list who are already using Bridgefy There is also a Share button that you can use to invite people who are not yet using the app.
Next to each contact, you can see who is nearby, with whom you can contact. A red bubble with the words “In range” will show next to each contact who is closer to your current location.
- Click on a username to start sending messages to them. You can also submit your location by clicking the red button at the bottom right of the screen.
- Click on the pin and then click Share my current location (works with Google Maps).
- Bridgefy also sends you notification pop-ups whenever you receive a new message, just like in apps like WhatsApp and other messaging apps.
Note. During testing, we moved around the building with our phones and tried to send messages from different rooms. We found that we were unable to communicate because our messages either displayed a small timer icon indicating that the message was pending delivery, or “Try Again” (with an exclamation mark) indicating that they were not delivered or were not sent.
As we got closer, messages started coming in one after another. All sent and delivered messages have double green check marks, similar to blue check marks in WhatsApp.
Make Messaging Easier
Mesh messaging is a great way to protect your privacy while avoiding government surveillance or online surveillance. It won’t replace your day-to-day communication, but it definitely makes messaging in crowded places easier and offers a safe way to communicate and solve problems if the Internet can no longer be used or trusted.