Emtek is finally shutting down the consumer version of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) on May 31. In a blog post, the company said that “users have moved on to other platforms” and that it was “sad to say goodbye.” So in a little over a month, refunds for stickers will be issued. BBMoji will disappear. The app will stop working. BBM as we know it will die.
Don’t despair. In tandem with killing BBM for consumers, BlackBerry announced that BBM Enterprise (BBMe) would now be available to everyone—for a fee. (Emtek had licensed the consumer version of BBM from BlackBerry, while BlackBerry Limited, the Canadian company formerly known as Research in Motion, continued to develop BBMe.) The BBM Enterprise app is now available for download in the iOS and Google Play stores. The service will be free to new users for the first year, and after that, it will cost $2.50 for a six month subscription.
Although it’s technically a different service, BBM Enterprise offers a lot of the same features as the consumer version of the chat application, including voice and video calls. There’s also group chat as well as the ability to edit or retract messages. You can even use BBM Enterprise on Windows and Mac computers. But what might be worth those new subscription dollars—all $5 a year of them—is BBM Enterprise’s robust end-to-end encryption, including signing keys that are not available to BlackBerry. The consumer version of BBM did not have end-to-end encryption and also failed a lot of other security tests.
It’s unclear how many people the death of BBM for consumers will affect. Since its launch in 2005, BlackBerry Messenger has experienced a rollercoaster ride of popularity. Being able to exchange BBM pins used to be a status symbol of sorts in the pre-iPhone era, and even as other smartphone platforms grew, BBM retained a loyal following among many loyal BlackBerry users, including some celebrities. Lana Del Rey even wrote a song about it called “BBM Baby” in 2011, although it wasn’t released until 2016. That same year, analysts reported that BBM still had about 90 million active users worldwide. It was also, astonishingly, the number one messaging app in Indonesia at the time. That might be why the Indonesia-based Emtek Group bought the development rights for BBM that same year.
But let’s be real, BBM has been doomed for a long time. Despite being released on iOS and Android, the service has continued to lose ground to current messaging giants like iMessage, Facebook, WhatsApp, and WeChat. Not even gimmicks and tricks could save BBM as its users fled to other platforms. BBM tried stickers, ephemeral messages, music, and yes, something called BBMoji. But none of it was enough.
The good news for BBM fans is that BBMe is now an option, and it’s honestly a pretty cheap one. BlackBerry Messenger Enterprise also offers better security and lacks the gimmicky features mentioned above. The bad news is that your current BBM data will disappear when the service closes down next month, though you will be able to download it before then. (Consult BBM’s handy help page for more details on how to do this.) So far, it’s unclear if there will be an easy way to port old BBM for consumer data into a new BBMe account.
If you’ve read this far and you still can’t believe people even use BlackBerrys or BlackBerry services anymore, that’s okay. The BlackBerry fans are still out there, and they’re uniquely passionate about their physical keyboards. BlackBerry even released a pretty good phone last year: the Key2. The company no longer enjoys the iconic status, massive user base, or profitability that it used to. But hey, nobody lives forever.