The birthplace of UTB hits the end of the road.
BBM is my most used, most important app. It is the first thing I check in the morning, and the last thing I check at night. And it’s been that way for over a decade. Yesterday, we received some devastating news, however it came with a small bit of welcome news.
First, let’s go over the basics.
BBM is the original mobile messaging app created by BlackBerry. It was an add on to BlackBerry phones, and the inspiration for all of the worlds most popular messenger applications. But the BlackBerry of yore, or as I like to say, Pre-Chen BlackBerry, made some terrible business decisions, and didn’t make the application cross platform, as other slick competitors arrived that could be used across operating systems. With this development, BBM’s popularity began to shrink in size. When BlackBerry finally decided to make BBM cross platform, it was late to the table, and it was a struggle to get people off of other messengers and get them onto BBM.
However, BlackBerry was still innovating, and adding new features all the time. They introduced a social media aspect to BBM with Channels and that is where this very site was born. From a BBM channel and onto the web. And we were not unique, there were more than a few brandings that started at BBM and worked their way out into the larger world.
But BBM didn’t really fit in with BlackBerry’s new direction, and they licensed the business to Emtek. Under Emtek we saw the development of BBM rocket forward. Every month there were new services or abilities. Numerous times, and often written about here, we would see the much larger and more popular messenger applications adding functionality months or even years after BBM first did it. But still, it didn’t seem to be growing as it should.
Now, BBM users awoke to a bombshell yesterday. Emtek is doing something that BlackBerry never did. It is giving up.
With a simple message in BBM we were all told that BBM would be shutting down on May 31. While Emtek managed to bring some amazing features to BBM, apparently they weren’t able to bring success, and they are walking away.
In response, BlackBerry has stepped up to the plate and opened up BBM Enterprise to individual users. BBM Enterprise was the segment which BlackBerry kept ahold of for their business offerings. It is like stepping back to BB10, which is a positive for some people out there. It provides a more secure messaging platform, group chats that everyone loves, and all of the original features. Unfortunately, many of the fun features are gone. BBM Feeds which we saw a dramatic improvement, gone. BBM Channels, gone. So much of what made BBM fun outside of basic chats that have become a standard for BBM users over the last three years, were features added by Emtek and not to be found in BBM Enterprise.
Users are currently scrambling to find a new home. While there may not have been a lot of us, and obviously not enough for Emtek to see a profitable future, we were a loyal bunch. Most of us had been on BBM for over a decade, spanning the globe and speaking to each other daily. There are solid friendships that have been formed over the service, and again, this very website was created on and through BBM. And where do we go now?
Unfortunately, it seems people are heading different directions. Most of those I know have opened up accounts on BBM Enterprise and/or Telegram. It seems that some are going to WhatsApp (why people why?). One thing is for certain, many of these long lasting groups are coming to an end as people end up on different platforms.
In the back of my mind, I hope that the current BlackBerry can do something which it wasn’t able to do before, and which Emtek gave up in defeat, and that is make BBM profitable. I want to see those capabilities which we all grew accustomed to in consumer BBM come to BBM Enterprise. I want Feeds to return. I want Channels to return. I want stickers and all the little nonsensical but fun items to return. But I’m not counting on it.
BlackBerry is now a software and security company focused on business customers. I don’t expect them to spin their wheels attempting to turn BBM into a consumer success. But I’m still hoping.
Honestly, I don’t know where I will end up. Personally, I have started a BBM Enterprise account, as well as a Telegram account. I will not touch Facebook’s WhatsApp. I have been a rabid fan of BBM for the last decade, however using BBM Enterprise is a bit painful. Not because it’s a bad app, it is not. It’s a great app. But because I have grown accustomed to all the additional services, that using BBM Enterprise feels like stepping back in time, and I’m constantly reminded of what I’m giving up. Who knows, perhaps once Consumer BBM is gone at the end of May, those feelings will change. But you can be assured, no matter where I end up calling home, I will keep a constant vigil on BBM, looking for those aspects which I want to return.