BlackBerry Messenger or BBM used be the one killer features of BlackBerry. In fact it’s still the reason why many people purchase a BlackBerry. However, thanks to the popularity of multi-platform apps like WhatsApp, Kik, and Viber, BBM no longer commands the respect it used to. WhatsApp recently reported that it has 200 million active monthly users, which is more than thrice that of BBM’s active user count. Sure, BlackBerry Messenger is a lot more secure than WhatsApp, which is frankly a security nightmare. However, this can hardly enough to sway the opinion of millions of smartphone buyers. It has long been rumoured that the struggling Canadian smartphone manufacturer will be opening up BBM. Perhaps feeling the pressure, BlackBerry has finally bit the bullet.
BlackBerry just announced at the BBLive conference that it will be launching the BBM as an independent app on Android and iPhone this “summer”. No concrete dates were given; however, Android Police is reporting that the BlackBerry Messenger will be a free download that will require at least ICS (Android 4.0). It will be initially released with support for messaging and groups with additional features including voice, screen share, and channels being added later on. BBM users will be able to setup groups and share voice notes, calendar, photos, files and more. “For BlackBerry, messaging and collaboration are inseparable from the mobile experience, and the time is definitely right for BBM to become a multi-platform mobile service”, said Andrew Bocking, Executive Vice President, Software Product Management and Ecosystem, at BlackBerry.
You are probably aware of the shameful display of hooliganism that has ravaged several British cities including London, just a year before it is due to host the Olympics. According to reports, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) was the primary tool used to spread and organize the riots.
The riots started on August 6, in response to the Police shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham. A protest march by a couple of hundred people turned violent, and resorted to rioting, vandalism, and looting. Over the next few days, the disturbance spread to several other cities including Birmingham, Liverpool, and Nottingham. As mentioned earlier, the vandals, who were mostly youths, resorted to using BBM as the primary means of communication. UrbanMashup has dug up evidence that illustrates how BBM was used to spread information about areas that were being attacked and were vulnerable.
Reacting to the widespread allegations of misuse of BBM during the riots, the official BlackBerry UK Twitter account promised to co-operate with the police during the investigation. It issued the following brief statement on the aforementioned micro-blogging platform:
Although RIM has declined to reveal the extent of its co-operation with the police, according to The Inquirer, The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act could be used to force Research in Motion (RIM) – the Canadian manufacturer of BlackBerry, to hand over data from its encrypted BBM network.
This announcement obviously didn’t sit well with some people. A group called Team Poison defaced the official BlackBerry blog in retaliation. Team Poison has urged RIM to not cooperate with the UK police, as it believes that handing over BBM data will lead to innocent bystanders, who were at the wrong place at the wrong time, getting implicated. It also threatened to release RIM’s UK employee database to the angry rioters, if the Canadian company didn’t back down. The offending blog post has already been removed by RIM, but a screenshot provided by an HN user is embedded below.