AirChat lets you chat to nearby users by abusing the AirDrop interface on OS X.
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AirChat is a zero-dependency* P2P CLI chat tool that (ab)uses the AirDrop interface to allow chatting across WiFi networks (or no WiFi network).

A RailsCamp AU 20 project.



  • Chat to other AirChat users in proximity without being on the same network
  • Self-contained - no gems, nothing else to download/install
  • Automatically keeps AirDrop active
  • Commands: /nick, /who, /me, /quit
  • User colours tied to their IPv6 address


  • OS X with system Ruby 2+ with working AirDrop
  • Ruby 2.0 or higher (comes with OS X)
  • tcpdump (comes with OS X)


# Get it
curl -L > airchat.rb && chmod +x airchat.rb
# or get someone to AirDrop it to you, etc.

# AirChat requires raw access to the /dev/bpf* interface.
# Run using sudo
sudo ./airchat.rb
# OR
# Give permission to /dev/bpf*
sudo chgrp staff /dev/bpf* && sudo chmod g+rw /dev/bpf*  # These permissions will reset on reboot

How does it work?

AirChat uses the awdl0 interface to talk to other machines with AirDrop active. However, OS X restricts binding to this interface, and non-AirDrop network traffic is rejected with ICMP Port Unreachable. AirChat gets around this by using tcpdump to receive UDP data, as OS X doesn't stop you from sending packets through that interface.

AirChat broadcasts JSON-encoded messages in UDP to ff02::fb on port 1337.


  • Messages are transmitted in plain text.
  • No direct messaging
  • One channel only (you can specify a different port by modifying the source)
  • Message delivery is not guaranteed
  • No message repeater functionality



ANSI RGB magic sauce from the paint gem.