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Tin-Can: text messages without the internet's video poster

Tin-Can is a one-to-many messaging app that hops from phone to phone without using the internet. Imagine Twitter without the internet. Read more

Ann Arbor, MI Technology
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This project was successfully funded on April 23, 2013.

Tin-Can is a one-to-many messaging app that hops from phone to phone without using the internet. Imagine Twitter without the internet.

Ann Arbor, MI Technology
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About this project

If you are familiar with Twitter, then you will understand how Tin-Can works. When you send a message, anyone that subscribes to your current Tin-Can ID can get it. However, unlike services like Twitter, Tin-Can messages do not spread via the internet (or cellular network). Instead, they must hop from phone to phone.

We are building Tin-Can because we want it to exist, and think the world would be better off for it.

In many ways, Tin-Can is silly. However, if the internet goes down, Tin-Can is not affected. This could be very useful in a disaster area, or possibly in a protest.

Tin-Can would also be useful at a festival, sporting event, or a concert. Many large gatherings have a lack of adequate network coverage due to so many people being in the same area at once. Tin-Can can would work great for quick communication within the crowd.

Also, because of the nature of Tin-Can's design, it could be used for anonymous chat.

Tin-Can is being built by JakobVirgil. He and mk (Mark Katakowski) devised to build it in a thread on

Tin-Can will be a free Android app. Our modest proposal is to feed JV while he doesn't work on anything but Tin-Can.

Work on Tin-Can has already begun, and we plan to be finished by June. You can follow our progress on Hubski with the tag #tincan.

We've had a number of questions about Tin-Can works, so here are some more technical details:

How do I exchange messages with other Tin-Can users? To the outside observer Tin-Can looks like a wifi-hotspot with the ssid TINCAN. Whenever anybody tries to log in, it will politely tell them that they used the wrong password no matter what password they use. When one Tin-Can finds another Tin-Can, the messages are automatically sent. This will appear only as two phones not syncing up.

How does Tin-Can identify users? Tin-Can doesn't identify users for delivery. Each message has a sender, and if you subscribe to that sender, the message will display if it hops onto your phone.  

How are messages connected to the sender? Tin-Can messages are signed and your signature will be unique. Even if both of us want to be called Steve, Tin-Can will keep us separate by assigning a 2 utf-16 suffix on your tag. I may be steve-山蛋 and you steve-산ಡಿ (“Steve mountain eggs” and “Steve acid D”) the suffixes are optionally hidden.

How will messages appear on my Tin-Can? Messages are public by default, and you can read messages going through your phone, making the experience akin to Twitter or IRC. There will be different options that range from seeing only messages from users that you subscribe to, to a ‘firehose’ setting that will allow you to see all messages in your ‘lump’.  

How long are messages stored on my phone? Older messages will be deleted based upon the age of the message, and possibly the number of hops the message has made. We are discussing the possibility of extending the life of messages based on other metrics or user signals, and are open to ideas.  

How many characters can a Tin-Can message be? It will be short. Our working length is 128, but that might change.  

What about iOS? Not in the near future. However, Tin-Can for Windows (laptops and such) is a real possibility.  

If you have any questions, we’d be happy to answer them. Thanks!

And last but not least, a pre-market review by Fabio Lo Cascio!

Risks and challenges

We have the technical expertise to build Tin-Can, and that's what we are going to do.

mk is the creator of, and he will post updates about Tin-Can there. If we run into any difficulties, we will make them known there with the tag #tincan:…

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  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    46 backers

    Thank you so very much!

    We will sit down, assume a most serious expression, and chant your name three times in a melodic and uplifting tone.

    In addition, if you like, your Tin-Can ID and a short message will be listed in a post by mk on celebrating the launch of Tin-Can.

    Tin-Can will be free for everyone.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    16 backers

    Awesome! You get all the benefits of the $10 pledge, plus we will send 10 Tin-Can stickers to you so you can proudly display that you use Tin-Can.

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $75 or more

    6 backers

    You get all the benefits of the $10 and $25 pledges, plus we will send two tin cans connected by a piece of string to you!

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States

Funding period

- (14 days)