FireChat App Takes Off Amid Hong Kong Protests

That’s the subject of a brief story I wrote yesterday:

A new mobile messaging app that enables users to communicate in the absence of cellular or Internet connections is seeing a surge in downloads among Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters.

The free FireChat app, which launched in March, was downloaded 100,000 times in Hong Kong between Sunday morning and Monday morning, said Micha Benoliel, co-founder and chief executive of San Francisco-based Open Garden, which developed the app.

It is unclear how many protesters are using it to communicate regularly during the protests, which mark Hong Kong’s most serious confrontation with Beijing in more than a decade. Students and other protesters have flooded the city’s streets in the weeks since Beijing’s decision on Aug. 31 to impose limits on how Hong Kong elects its leader. The protests escalated Sunday, with police using pepper spray and tear gas to disperse demonstrators.

Click through for more.

My Story on Messaging Apps in Southeast Asia

2014 06 25 messaging apps

The reason I have this special folder on my iPhone: I’ve been researching a story on messaging app makers battling for users here in Southeast Asia.

It ran in the WSJ Asia in print and online Friday.

The lede:

When Listri Samudra, an equity sales representative in the Indonesian city of Bandung, opens her smartphone to connect with her clients, she has three messaging apps to choose from.

She usually prefers BlackBerry Messenger, which remains highly popular in Indonesia, but also often uses WhatsApp—the company Facebook Inc. recently agreed to buy for $19 billion—or Line, a Japanese app that is rapidly gaining ground in the region.

The crowd of free messaging apps on Ms. Samudra’s phone illustrates why Southeast Asia is shaping up as an important battleground for messaging app makers. The region, in which no clear messaging leader has emerged, is critical, in part, because many of its roughly 600 million people have yet to upgrade from basic cellphones to smartphones.

Click through for a map of the region with estimates of which apps are most popular in countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia.