While we all continue to send instant messages through iMessage, WhatsApp, and other such services, BlackBerry quietly shut down its BBM messaging app for consumers.
While BlackMerry Messenger (BBM) will continue to be available for enterprise customers, and BlackBerry, iOS, or Android users who want to use this version, the Waterloo-based company ceased operations of the app as of Friday, May 31, 2019. If you have the app and try to open it up, you'll get a notice that says "BBM is unable to connect to the server. Please try again later."
BlackBerry confirmed the sign-off in a Tweet that starts with the word "PING!!!" and goes on to thank customers for the support and memories, and includes a link to BBM Enterprise for anyone who cares to continue using the service. The official BlackBerry Twitter account has also been heavily promoting BBMe, as has John Chen, Executive Chairman and CEO, through a recent blog post.
"Rather than look at this as ‘the end of an era,' writes Chen, citing how many media reports are phrasing the closure, "we're choosing to celebrate and fondly remember BBM consumer while looking forward to our exciting next phase."
It seems like an insignificant closure, but we forget that BBM was a real revolution in the messaging world when it launched way back in 2005, presenting a way for people to communicate with one another, in real-time, using small packets of data. Not only that, but we could see when a message was delivered and read with those handy little "Ds" and "Rs," and even know when someone was actively typing a reply. It was safer and more secure than text messaging, often more reliable and instantaneous, and it worked across carriers. But what it didn't do was work across different device types. BlackBerry refused to open the service up to other smartphone platforms. Eventually Android and iPhone swept in, along with WhatsApp, and, well, the rest is history.
Though many believe that BlackBerry missed a huge opportunity by not launching BBM on other devices, would it have become the defacto standard if the company went that route? Probably not. Apple has always operated in its own silo, so chances are that even if BBM ran on iPhones (which it now does), iMessage would likely have been part of Apple's eventual launch pipeline anyway. And WhatsApp stormed onto the scene in 2009, took the messaging industry by storm, and was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for the massive sum of US$19.3 billion. As at February 2018, WhatsApp had more than 1.5 billion users in multiple countries.
As data plans become standard among mobile users, instant messaging has taken a slight backseat to social media, where messages and content can be shared just as easily, with more people or privately, through platforms like Snapchat and Instagram. Facebook's own Messenger app is also growing in popularity both among consumers as well as businesses that use it as an effective customer service tool.
Loyal users can still download BBM Enterprise and use it on Android and iOS devices, as well as BlackBerrys. It will come at a cost, though a nominal one: BBMe is free for the first year, then US$2.49 bi-annually. That's a small price to pay if you want to continue enjoying the service. Otherwise, it's bye, bye, bye BBM.