Only 50% of the world have internet access today. But around 65% have SMS access. That's over 1.3 billion people who have SMS access but don't have any access to the internet. Especially in developing countries, the growth of access to the internet is slowing down due to many barriers of access such as . In a world where internet connectivity is essential for fast information retrieval and for a lot of other applications, we set out to bring the world a bit closer by providing internet access to those in need.
What it does
We built a web browser that allows users to access websites completely offline without the need of WiFi or mobile data, powered by SMS technology.
How we built it
There are three components to our app. We used Flutter for the front-end, to allow user URL entry. We then SMS the URL to our Twilio number. The back-end was written in Python and waits for incoming SMS messages and scrapes the webpage to get HTML content from it. We then return the HTML using SMS to the front-end where we parse and render the webpage.
Challenges we ran into
Integrating Twilio's API was a challenge to make sure we adhere by the character limits as well as implementing the logic behind waiting for incoming messages and replying to them. In addition, SMS technology is difficult to work with because of the unreliability of the speed of the message and order.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We're proud of our parsing algorithm that's able to take HTML and render it as a webpage on Flutter. We're also proud of our SMS communication technology that's verified using message IDs and our algorithm to accumulate all the individual SMS messages and aggregate them to form the HTML.
What we learned
This is the first time we're making a mobile app using Flutter and we learned a lot about mobile app development! We also learned how to use Twilio and a lot about how SMS technology works on mobile phones. Accumulating data about internet access, we learned that there are a lot of people out there who sometimes or all the times have access to SMS but not the internet via WiFi or mobile data.
What's next for Telebrowser