From Cult of Mac:

It’s a new kind of app because it uses an iOS feature unavailable until version 7: the Multipeer Connectivity Framework. The app was developed by the crowdsourced connectivity provider Open Garden and this is their first iOS app.

The Multipeer Connectivity Framework enables users to flexibly use WiFi and Bluetooth peer-to-peer connections to chat and share photos even without an Internet connection. Big deal, right?

But here’s the really big deal — it can enable two users to chat not only without an Internet connection, but also when they are far beyond WiFi and Bluetooth range from each other — connected with a chain of peer-to-peer users between one user and a far-away Internet connection.

It’s called wireless mesh networking. And Apple has mainstreamed it in iOS 7. It’s going to change everything.

Holy. Crap.

I've been getting excited about mesh networks lately, mostly due to reading too much sci-fi. I try to follow Apple developer news, as I'm always just on the edge of writing a mobile app. And yet, I hadn't heard about this.

Okay, okay. Forget the stuff about chatting during a marathon through the woods in Washington (as cool as that is). This could be a major, major fix for the internet as a whole. Let's take some examples.

Netflix has agreed to pay Comcast to stream videos across the pipes. That's the beginning of the end for network neutrality, and anyone who consistently sends a lot of data over the tubes is in danger of being put in the slow lane (or taken off completely) unless they pay carriers. That's horrible, but it's the state of things due to state-granted monopolies on fiber lines built in the 80's.

As of WWDC circa 2012, Apple had sent 1.5 trillion push notifications reaching rates of about 7 billion per day. I can only guess those numbers have gotten bigger. So what happens when Comcast or Time Warner (and God help us if that merger goes through) says to Apple, "Nice messaging service ya got there... shame if someone were to... mess with it" ? Well now, Apple can flip a switch and route straight around them.

Or what happens when the NSA plants a parasite on the backbone of the internet to siphon copies of all data running through it? Strong crypto is good enough for now, but when the NSA starts stocking quantum computers or builds enough qubits in house to start breaking that? You'd need to route around the internet. Especially if you're saying mean things about the NSA. Or, say, your ex-boyfriend who works there. Firechat, or iMessage + mesh networking could be answers.

Mesh networking may never be a substitute for real-time, bandwidth-hungry applications like Netflix or Twitch.tv. There are simply too many hops compared to the backbone-centric structure of the DNS. But for small-bandwidth systems like email, text messaging, deliveries, Bitcoin, algorithms and software, this could be a game changer.

The next steps are (hopefully) for Google and Microsoft to build cooperative, or even competing mesh-network solutions into their devices. Or for someone to release a cheap device that does mesh networking by default. The advantages of having this in phones are: a) lots of people already have phones and b) people have a reason to buy phones. I don't foresee a time when lots of people buy mesh networking repeaters that do little to nothing else - I doubt the mass market will ever understand the concept at that level. But if you package mesh networking with existing products, say wireless routers for example, we could start seeing a ton of coverage.

And that's a future I'm pretty excited about.