RIP BlackBerry Messenger: Gone, but not forgotten

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It’s been a long time coming, but the day is finally here. BlackBerry will pull the plug on BlackBerry Messenger (the consumer version) at the end of the day today, and while we know you likely don’t use it anymore, BBM was a big part of the past for many. It hasn’t been the center of attention in a long time, and if we’re being honest, people haven’t really even talked about it all that much in the recent years thanks to apps like WhatsApp, Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, Slack, and more taking over. All of those apps are great, but the nostalgia around BlackBerry Messenger has me feeling a certain type of way.

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I was a die-hard BlackBerry user 10 years ago; I bought every single one of them that came to Verizon. My first one was the BlackBerry 8703e, which had the scroll wheel on the side and didn’t even include a camera. Shortly after buying it I discovered BlackBerry Messenger (thanks to CrackBerry!), and it changed my life. I met some great people, found a passion for writing, and even met my wife on the platform. Seriously, when I say BBM changed my life, I 100% mean it.

You didn’t have to give out your phone number to strangers, you had a PIN number that identified you and that was great at the time. At a time when carriers used to still charge for texts in bundles, it was great to be able to use another service to avoid paying extra each month. Over the years, BlackBerry added features like group chats, Channels, games, and more. At the time, BBM was king, and no one thought it was going anywhere. Then Apple announces the iPhone, Google introduces more Android phones, and the competition heats up. Much like the current “iMessage lock-in” that some people have today, that’s how it was on BBM for me. I never wanted to leave my BlackBerry phone, because that meant giving up communication with all my friends that I spoke with regularly.

Fast forward a few years, mobile apps start getting better, phones are beginning to include crazier cameras, and the appeal to switch continues to grow. With apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger around that were cross platform, you could technically still talk to friends if you could get them to switch over. For what felt like an eternity, people asked BlackBerry to bring BBM cross-platform. We wanted BBM support on Android and iPhone so that we could continue those conversations regardless of our mobile choices, but it took BlackBerry too long.

Thanks for the memories, even if they weren’t so great

By the time BBM finally made its way to other platforms, the allure was gone, people didn’t seem to care about it much anymore, and no one wanted to switch back to it. Those who moved beyond BlackBerry (myself included) had already settled into a new messaging app, and didn’t want to have to start over. Thinking back, though, it’s clear that BlackBerry Messenger played a large part in evolving messaging apps into what they are today. Some of the best features of it made their way into other apps. The “Delivered” and “Read” indicators from BBM are available in both WhatsApp and iMessage, Group Chats are widely available, gaming is now something people do inside chat apps, and so much more.

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When I think back about BBM, a quote from Fall Out Boy comes to mind: “Thanks for the memories even though they weren’t so great.” For all the things BlackBerry Messenger did great, there was a bunch of stuff that it never did well. You were locked into a single device to communicate, you couldn’t transfer chats easily, moving your contacts from one device to another wasn’t always a painless experience, and much more. I’m very thankful for everything that BlackBerry Messenger brought me, but I think it’s time that it gets put to rest. All good things must come to an end, and it’s that time for BBM. If you aren’t quite 100% ready to give it up (hey, we aren’t judging), you can sign up for BBM Enterprise, which costs just $2.49 for a 6-month subscription.