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Instant messaging has been one of the most revolutionary developments when it comes to written communication. While SMS came into existence long before IM did, the concept caught on so well with users that today, even SMS conversations got arranged into “threads”, to give an experience closer to how you’d expect an instant messaging client to behave. Popular IM clients like Yahoo Messenger, MSN (now Windows Live) Messenger, ICQ etc, have seen their days of glory, and still have a pretty loyal user base. Then, there were mobile specific clients, like Nimbuzz, Jabber, IM+, even mig33, that became a true hit with the on-the-move community. The trend carries on even today.

One thing that all these clients had in common, is that you had to be friends with someone in order to be able to communicate with them. In other words, you had to be on their contact list to send chat messages. Instant messaging with strangers was made rather popular with the evolution of IRC – internet relay chat – where the idea was being able to meet new people and make friends as you talk. With IRC clients, you were still giving out some of your information, which led to the creation of web-based applications like Chatroulette and Omegle, providing an anonymous chat experience with complete ‘strangers’. Taking cue from the same concept, Catena has been developed for Android to provide a completely anonymous chatting experience right on your smartphone or tablet.

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A service like Omegle also has fairly capable mobile applications for almost all major smartphone platforms, so what makes Catena better? The fact that alongside being anonymous, Catena is location-based, in that it will attempt to connect you to people close to your current location. Don’t want to give out your location? No worries, you can always spoof it, and the app will even let you pick a region of your choice if you’re interested in discovering people in that particular area.

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Another great aspect of Catena for Android, is the fact that it puts a lot of control in the user’s hands. You don’t like to chat anonymously, but want to assume the persona (or name, at least) of your favorite anime character? The app will let you choose a unique user ID. Then, the definition of “people close to you” is specified by you, as you can decide what proximity some other Catena user should be in for your client to pick them up and show their messages. Finally, the service lets you leave “broadcast” messages, which are semi-permanent markers of your being in some place that other users can read when they are in the approximate (or same) location. I have yet to see this in any other similar offering.

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Catena is in beta as of this writing, and hence, all features are available, fully-functional, for free at the Google Play Store. The app requires Android 2.2 or above to work, and is a must-try if you’re into anonymous chatting and meeting new people near you.

(Source: Catena Beta for Android on Play Store)

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