Zello, a mobile walki-talkie app developed by Bill Moore in Austin, Texas, has been so successful that Venezuela has even tried to block people from using it.
One of Zello’s greatest attractions for protestors is its complete simplicity — essentially, it just lets people talk to each other through the Internet.
Patrick Tucker, writing for Defence One, states:
…Zello allows individuals to communicate to one another walkie-talkie style via a simple broadband connection. The app interface looks a like button on your phone. You press it to speak to people on a particular channel. The channels can be as small as two people or as big as hundreds of thousands. The largest in Venezuela is about 450,000, but only 600 can be active on a channel at one time, Moore said.
Zello has a history of helping protestors in certain hot-spots. Last year, Zello became one of the key apps protestors used in Turkey to coordinate movements and security.
In Venezuela, too, Zello has helped to mobilize marches, evade security sweeps, and build barricades. In the past few days, Zello has been downloaded more than 600,000 times in Venezuela alone.
This popularity has rattled Venezuela’s government. In an attempt to clamp down, Venezuela moved to block all access to the app. However, a new, patched version, of the app was released within a day, circumventing Venezuela’s ban.
Part of the appeal of Zello is the ability of the human voice to carry so much more information than mere type, allowing users to give impassioned speeches.
Zello does have shortcomings. Since it is largely public, the Venezuelan government and security forces can listen in on communication channels. Although there are ways to make channels password-protected, the majority of users have so far ignored the extra security concerns.
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