Frequently asked questions


What does FireChat do?

FireChat allows people to exchange messages and pictures, like most chat and social networking apps. You can join different chat groups called firechats, or create your own firechats about the topics, people or communities that interest you.

How is FireChat different from other chat apps?

What makes FireChat so different is that it works even when no Internet connection or cellular coverage is available.

How does FireChat really work?

On iOS, the magic comes from one of Apple iOS's most advanced technologies: the Multipeer Connectivity Framework. For Android, we use mesh networking technology developed by Open Garden. The latest version of FireChat enables nearby chatting between iOS and Android devices.

I can't see my messages! Have I been banned?

FireChat uses automatic abuse detection. Inappropriate use of FireChat can result in your IP address being temporarily banned from the service. You should be able to log in again after 7 days.

FireChat says I'm disconnected. What do I do?

To connect to firechats and the Everyone chat room, you must have an Internet connection. Nearby mode works best at distances of about 10 meters, so you won't see anyone there unless someone running the app is quite close to you.

How can I connect to friends who are nearby?

After turning on your phone's Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, Firechat will connect you to your friends automatically. Open the 'Nearby' chat to see who's around!

What does Open Garden do?

Gives you Internet through mesh networking.

How is Open Garden different from tethering?

Besides the fact that Open Garden and tethering are technically almost completely unrelated, this is how you use tethering:

  1. Get your phone out of your pocket
  2. Unlock screen
  3. Go to Settings
  4. Tap MORE...
  5. Tap Tethering and personal hotspot
  6. Tap Enable personal hotspot
  7. Pay $20-30/month
  8. Open your laptop
  9. Select your hotspot's SSID from the list and join
  10. Use the Internet ← this is what you actually wanted
  11. Unlock phone
  12. Turn personal hotspot off. (If you forget to turn it off, your battery will be dead in less than two hours.)

Here is how you use Open Garden:

  1. Open your laptop
  2. Use the Internet

In other words, Open Garden, even if used just to provide connectivity to a laptop from a phone, removes all the silly boring steps that tethering has. Additionally, Open Garden can provide connectivity to the phone as well, plus version 2 of our app has implemented "channel bonding" (using multiple sources of connectivity together) and "multi-hop" (extending the range of Internet access through a daisy-chain of devices) features.

Will my carrier charge me a tethering fee or block my traffic when I use Open Garden?

We are not aware of any carrier detecting Open Garden usage. However, T-Mobile seems to block all browser traffic originating from a desktop or laptop unless you pay for tethering. If you experience this, simply use websites that support HTTPS or change your browser's user agent to mimik that of a mobile device. To learn how to change the user agent on your favorite browser, search the web for "change user agent *favorite browser*".

How does Open Garden affect my battery time?

You need to install Open Garden on every device that will use it, whether to provide connectivity, consume it, or both. This includes Android phones, Android tablets, Windows PCs, and Macs. iPads, iPods, iPhones, and Linux are not currently supported.

I am on the "Install Open Garden on your laptop/phone" screen. What now?

Assuming you already installed Open Garden on a nearby device, press "Connect" on one or both devices and wait.

For the very first connection, Open Garden needs to learn about nearby devices and will do so using one of three methods: WLAN, when the devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network; location services, when the devices are connected to separate networks; and Bluetooth, when one of the devices is without Internet access completely, in this situation you can manually pair the devices with Bluetooth to force a connection over Open Garden.

If Open Garden is not installed on a nearby device it will not work.

I am trying to use Open Garden to access the Internet from my device which has no Internet connectivity at all. How do I get Open Garden onto it?

Finding temporary Internet connectivity is the quickest solution, perhaps in a library or cafe.

However if this is not possible, you can download the correct client onto a device with Internet connectivity and transfer the installer over via Bluetooth to the device without Internet. For example, if you have an Android phone with a data plan and a Windows laptop without Internet connectivity you can download the Windows installer on the Android device from

Then use Bluetooth file transfer to send the downloaded EXE file to the Windows machine. Note: The Bluetooth file transfer process varies between devices and operating systems. Once transferred, install the Windows client as you would normally. Once running, press "Connect" to trigger Open Garden to find the phone (which presumably also has Open Garden installed). The pairing process required to transfer the file over Bluetooth is the only way Open Garden will be able to detect the offline device, so don't try to transfer the file over a USB stick unless you pair the devices with Bluetooth separately.

My devices used to connect, but now they don't. What do I do?

If the automatic connection doesn't seem to work for you, press "Connect" on both devices to attempt a force connection.

Why does the Android application _______ (ex: Netflix, Google Maps, etc.) not get Internet when using Open Garden?

Short story: Try doing whatever you were trying to do through the browser. Also, help to draw Google's attention to this problem by starring the the related Android issue.

Long story: You actually do have Internet connectivity on the client device - any app can call any normal network functions and they will work. Many apps do just that: they establish a connection and if that fails, give you an error.
Some apps, however, call a system function that basically checks whether Wi-Fi or 3G is on. If that function says there's "no network", the app doesn't even try connecting. This is generally pointless and not a good coding practice, but some apps have this check.
Since it's the app doing the check, there's really not much that we can do to convince it to just try anyway.

We have alerted Google to this problem and they recognize that the network check function should return true when there is a VPN, but that is of little help to you in the short term, since the fix would come only in a future version of Android, after Jelly Bean.

Since Chrome doesn't have the problem, you could just load whatever you were trying to do as a web app.

Why am I having trouble receiving internet with my device that runs a version of Android older than ICS (4.0)?

I At this time any Android before 4.0 (ICS, Ice Cream Sandwich) is limited to the use of mobile Firefox browser, so installing a mobile Firefox browser + the Open Garden FF addon will be necessary.

*Note this is only necessary for Android devices attempting to receive internet through Open Garden and NOT for primary Android devices sending out internet to share with others.

I just upgraded my device to Android 4.4 (KitKat) and Open Garden stopped working! What's wrong?

Android's KitKat broke compatibility with Open Garden. Please help us alert them of this major problem by starring this Android bug report: VPN issues on KitKat (version 4.4)

If you're interested in downgrading to 4.3, post a new discussion with the specifics of your device in this forum. We don't officially recommend this solution but can help if you'd like to try.

Open Garden is prompting to enable Bluetooth/Wi-Fi/location. How do I avoid doing that?

When the app asks for something, it really does need it. It would help us understand why you want the service turned off.

Why does Open Garden need location information?

To help devices find nearby devices.

Symantec/Norton says the Windows version of Open Garden is WS.Reputation.1. What is this?

Short story: Disable Symantec/Norton.

Long story: WS.Reputation.1 is Norton-speak for "new software." When they see something they haven't seen much before, they just delete it. Our Windows app is scanned by Norton and clean. It is also signed with a Symantec code signing certificate. Norton has a way to whitelist executables, and they did it for our installer once, but their whitelisting is only applicable to one specific version. It takes them longer to whitelist the app than it takes us to release a new version. You could complain to Norton, I suppose, but the much more practical option is to disable Norton and install. If you insist on more pain, you can re-enable Norton afterwards.

What is with the VPN permission pop-ups?

Currently, the way Android processes the VPN permission is on a per-instance basis rather than for the duration of install like they do for other permissions. If you'd like to help us tell Google to change this, please star this issue: Allow permanent VPN approval for apps

Why doesn't Open Garden work on my device that is already running a VPN?

Since the Open Garden clients use VPN functionality to route traffic and it is not possible to run simulaneous VPNs on the operating systems we support, Open Garden cannot work when a VPN is running. If you are concerned about personal privacy, we recommend looking into and configuring Tor to work with Open Garden. For more info, read this blog post: Using Tor Over Open Garden.

I'm having issues using Open Garden that are not resolved in the FAQ. What now?

Post a new discussion with details of your troubleshooting. This information should include but not be limited to: device type, model and operating system for all devices you are trying to use with Open Garden, the version of Open Garden on your devices, detailed steps to reproduce the issue and how this affects your device.