Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong pushed FireChat into the spotlight on Sunday, when the messaging app added 100,000 users in 24 hours, and analysts say this may only be the beginning.
FireChat users can exchange text and images using Bluetooth or peer-to-peer wifi. It does not require an internet connection, but users must be within 70 meters of one another to exchange messages. The free app is popular at concerts and festivals and in countries with poor or restricted web connectivity.
"[FireChat has] visualized user cases that social messaging giants like WhatsApp, WeChat and LINE have not, like the lack of an internet connection, either enforced or due to unreliable connectivity," Shiv Putcha, associate director with IDC's Asia/Pacific consumer mobility and social consumer research team, told CNBC.
The app, created by Open Garden, went viral in Hong Kong over the weekend amid fears that the internet could be shut down, but which did not come to fruition, and cellular network congestion.
FireChat was created for entertainment purposes but "we quickly realized that it could also be used in this kind of situation," Micha Benoliel, Open Garden co-founder & CEO, told CNBC on Thursday.
"The mission of this company has always been built to freedom of speech and access to knowledge," he said.