This came as somewhat of a shock to me. According to several articles last week including those from The Guardian and Mashable, Blackberry Messenger (BBM) was the center of organized mobile communication during the London riots, being used more than Facebook and Twitter.
Not so many months ago I witnessed the big push of BBM advertisements, seeing them all over every bus in town. To be perfectly honest, I laughed at the billboards, thinking to myself surely the BBM ship has passed. With the takeover of iOS and Android wouldn’t you think BBM would be squashed by now?
Apparently not among the younger European demographic. According to a recent Ofcom study, Blackberry devices are owned by more than a third of British teens.
What surprised me most about this story is that BBM was tracked as the No. 1 source of organized group communication during the riots.
Clever riot organizers used the service as their communication device of choice for privacy reasons. Given BBM’s PIN number privacy situation, the portal makes it a lot harder for authorities to trace messages and easier for users to strategize uninterrupted.
All I’m thinking, is why didn’t the organizers just use mass texts? As I recall, BBM was slow and frustrating. Plus I hated not being able to send my messages to everyone in my phone book. Shortly after the novelty of the private BBM club wore off, at least in my circle of friends in college, I gave up and stuck to my unlimited text plan.
So why didn’t the riot organizers do the same? Certainly, for a larger crowd, BBM wouldn’t work as well. There’s no comparing the size of these rioters to the epic crowds corralled in Egypt via Twitter. Evidently the free service and slice of the teen population was enough to get things accomplished.
In my eyes Blackberry has done a pretty decent job preserving loyalty among their customers given the circumstances. I’m definitely wondering however, how long will this BBM platform last and with such a loyal following is it possible it will maintain its presence and possibly evolve into something else?
A little bit about me: I am a former loyal Blackberry user and passionate consumer of news that I can absorb in 140 characters or less. I admit to sleeping with my phone in my hand on a regular basis, and as much as I loved my Blackberry, I broke down and bought an iPhone so I could play Word-With-Friends and Angry Birds on my morning BART ride. In addition, I am currently saving money for an iPad, which I will use if for nothing else than to read magazines and The New York Times.