Ukrainians Download Bridgefy as Russian Invasion Starts

Ukrainians Download Bridgefy as Russian Invasion Starts

The Bridgefy App in Real Life 06/16/2022

On February 24, 2022, Russia started a “special military operation” to “demilitarize and denazify” Ukraine, effectively declaring war on the country. This came days after Russian military buildups on the border with Ukraine, alleged clashes, and a consistent escalation of the conflict.

The attack started with military personnel crossing over the border, creating a front launched towards Kyiv, the capital city. Missile air strikes hit both Eastern and Western Ukraine. Fearing an Internet shutdown, or the censorship of the free Internet, Ukrainians rushed to download apps for offline, mesh communications, including Bridgefy, enabling communication over radio or Bluetooth signals. Other popular alternatives were Walkie-Talkie apps, VoIP apps, offline navigation apps, VPN apps, and Radio comms apps, according to Adam Blacker, a VP at app analytics company Apptopia,

Instead of relying on the Internet, Bridgefy uses a smartphone’s Bluetooth antenna to send messages within 330 feet, or 100 meters. However, every phone acts as a link in an ever increasing chain of devices, known as a mesh-network. This allows the Bridgefy App to cover large areas by letting messages “hop” through other users’ phones until they reach the intended destination. This way, users can stay connected without having a need to be online, effectively finding a way around a potential countrywide Internet shutdown or censorship.

Ukrainians started spreading the word about Bridgefy on social media, and some media outlets, like Forbes, caught up on the new trend and reported on it as well. Bridgefy App downloads spiked to more than 630,000 on the day the invasion started. By the time February 2022 ended, Ukraine accounted for 83% of the worldwide app downloads we received during that month.

Bridgefy App Downloads in Ukraine in 2022

Bridgefy App downloads in Ukraine, from February 21 to March 2, 2022. Graphic made with internal records.

Unfortunately, as of the day of this writing, there’s still no end in sight for the Russo-Ukrainian conflict.

John Koetsier (2022). Ukrainians Prepping For Internet Loss By Getting Apps For Offline, Private, Mesh Communications.
Wikipedia (2022). 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Featured image credit: City of Kyiv (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license).