New 'Chirp' App: Super Fast File-Sharing Service

Dennis Faas's picture

A new Apple iOS app that transmits data via "virtual birdsong" is making file sharing between smart devices easier than ever. "Chirp" is the brainchild of Animal Systems, a company started by researchers in the Computer Science Department at the University College of London.

Essentially, the app emits a two-second noise that sounds as if it were made by a robotic bird. The noise indicates that an instant download is being received from a trusted source.

App Uses Sound to Transfer Data

To send a chirp, an individual simply activates the app from their smartphone and selects the desired recipients.

Next, the user chooses a file to send (a stored file or even a newly-taken photograph) and pushes a big yellow button. The chirp is instantly sent out to a worldwide audience.

The ability of the recipient to push his or her own big yellow button and forward the received file to a new list of contacts makes Chirp the fastest way possible for a file to go viral.

The data itself does not travel via the sound. Rather, the chirp contains two proprietary protocols (an audio protocol and a network protocol).

Basically, the app first uploads the content to the cloud, then creates a unique code for the content and converts that code into sound. The sound is received by the recipient's app, which decodes it. (Source:

Another feature: users can start a chirp offline. The next time the device connects to the Internet, the content begins to download automatically.

Blacklist Keeps Trouble Away

Some observers have compared Chirp to a similar app called Color, which enabled strangers to share photos. By activating the app, pictures taken by User # 1 could simply appear on User # 2's screen, along with nearly every other picture User # 1 had ever taken using Color.

Criticisms quickly flooded in, citing fears of privacy violations and snooping.

But Chirp is different because Animal Systems subscribes to a "blacklist" service that prevents transmittal of known illicit or illegal websites. As a result, all files sent with Chirp come from reputable sources.

Currently, Chirp is available for iOS only, but observers expect an Android version in the near future.

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