Created by a UCSB alum, Popcorn Messaging is a new free mobile application that connects people with their neighbors through anonymous chatrooms.

The app allows users to anonymously chat with people within a one-mile distance, inviting users to meet up with nearby neighbors. UCSB alum Ryan Friedman created the new program so individuals could meet others easily, particularly in high density zones like college campuses or live events such as concerts. Friedman said he based Popcorn Messaging on Internet Relay Chat (IRC), a worldwide instant messaging system that also connects strangers but does so through computer chatrooms.

However, IRC is geared more toward a “computer-minded person,” Friedman said, whereas Popcorn Messaging is accessible to nearly anyone. According to Friedman, he came up with the idea for the app while he was living at Santa Catalina Residence Halls as a freshman, when he was looking for ways to meet new people.

“Unless you’re really outrageous and are okay with going up and down the halls … it’s not that easy,” Friedman said.

Friedman’s friend and collaborator Timmy Irani designed the app and, according to Friedman, the pair created the app with the privacy of users in mind, as people can post a limited amount of personal information and still receive updates on events in their area.

“The app is very useful in I.V. because there’s so much going on right around you that you might miss,” Friedman said. “There is a little more privacy to it than Facebook, so the barrier to entry is less intimidating.”

However, I.V. resident and second year pre-biology major John Zeiter said the app is “non-essential” because so many students already have phones. Additionally, Connor Mulcahey, a first-year mathematical sciences major who does website maintenance for Student Affairs, said the app does not allow people to be selective about what personal information they post online, which he said could be a hindrance to the app’s success. He also said the concept for the app is interesting but not original enough to make any real impact.

“Facebook groups are so prevalent that the niche has already been filled,” Mulcahey said. “Facebook was basically made for universities.”



A version of this article appeared on page 3 of the Tuesday, November 5, 2013 print edition of the Daily Nexus.