BlackBerry Messenger dies today, but it’ll never truly be gone

My favorite phone of all time is the BlackBerry Bold 9000. Unlike the iPhone 3G, which promoted a revolutionary design when it was announced a month later in 2008, the BlackBerry Bold was not super flashy. But I had one thing that the iPhone 3G did not have: BlackBerry Messenger. It became a defining feature of BlackBerry devices and changed forever the way phone users held business and casual conversations. Today, after years of waning use and financial problems of the BlackBerry RIM developer, BlackBerry Messenger is gone forever.

BlackBerry Messenger (better known as BBM) was one of the first instant messaging (IM) platforms that reached mobile devices in 2005. People can choose to use a BBM account linked to their exclusive BlackBerry Pin instead to send a standard text message. BBM managed to take the traditional desktop messages and translate them to the small computers in our pockets. It was amazing.

However, it was not perfect. BBM looked like an earlier version of Facebook WhatsApp. The text bubbles were messy, the user interface felt disorganized when browsing between messages and, if the wheel of your BlackBerry gets stuck, good luck moves through the messages. Despite the weaknesses of BBM, it became the application that defined my early experience in high school for two main reasons: group chats and a striking similarity to desktop IM platforms such as AIM.

I got my Bold 9000 in 2008. I was in 10th grade. and, like everyone else, my life revolved around my phone. My friends and I send text messages every day and night. We all had BlackBerrys. Some people got new devices from their parents as birthday gifts, others used old recycled phones. Through BBM, those individual text messages soon became endless and elaborate group chats. We became a perfect batch of new BlackBerry users. RIM already made a name for itself among companies and governments, but then it began to reach a crucial new audience: young consumers. For 2013, BBM had 60 million monthly active users. My friends and I were some of the first.

It seems silly to say today, when WhatsApp has more than a billion users and group chats are part of our daily lives, but at the time, it was sensational. I did not have to wait until I was at home to log in to MSN Messenger to continue talking with my friends.

It was also through the BBM group chat function that I entered my first high school relationship. We approach the constant group chats with our friends and, finally, we divide ourselves into direct messages. Yes, in 2008, I made the BBM equivalent of sliding in the DM. Every time I saw the flashing green light of my Bold turn red, which meant a new message, I experienced that little burst of heat in the pit of my stomach. It was ridiculous and stimulating. There was no difference for me at 15 between my physical relationship with this person and our life at BBM. In any case, the latter felt even more intimate and secure.

Nor was I the only person who felt that way about BBM. The first messages in the forum Crackberry are full of people trying to summarize why BBM felt better to use than standard text messages. "It's like an exclusive club," mused a member of Crackberry . "It makes the SMS look old," added another.

Ironically, one of the most cited reasons in Crackberry defend the superiority of BBM is also partially a reason why my relationship vanished. BBM helped create one of the most anxiety-inducing messaging functions that still exists today: read receipts.

Reading receipts were introduced together with BBM in 2005. When a message was sent, a small letter "D" will appear next to it. When the same message was read, the "D" would change to an "R". People thought he was a genius. Colleagues knew when someone was available and could hear it instantly. But the reading receipt function bite me again, a person who often reads a message and answers hours later.

In 2011, Urban Dictionary added the term "rbomb" to specifically address a cultural change in platforms such as BBM. People did not want the other person to know when a message was read. Several Reddit publications started appearing asking how to deal with the "anxiety of reading reception". Just this year, Dazed Digital published an article about how reading receipts can affect the mental health of people. The read receipts chased me for years after leaving BBM. I just re-powered them through iMessage recently as an experiment. The only difference between my anxiety now and then is not having to deal with an angry red blinking light on the top of my phone. The BlackBerry, through BBM, demanded attention.

For everything that made BBM sometimes frustrating to use, it gave me something I miss today: a private community. BBM felt like a small oasis in a growing field of social networks and sites that wanted everything to be bigger. Sites like Habbo Hotel and Twitter helped create the Internet we know today, all based on giving people the chance to talk to each other. But BBM was different. The group chats provided emotional support and a closeness that other sites could not replicate. The fact that it was on your phone, something that already feels incredibly personal because it lives in your hand, only strengthened that feeling. Today, during a time when the Internet is too noisy, I find myself sadly thinking about the first BBM group chats.

New York Magazine Max Read says that group chats are "making the Internet fun again". We feel that many of us are struggling to return to a place that reminds us of the quieter forums of the old school and the instant messaging platforms. That never stopped being BBM for me. It was the platform that helped me fall in love with cell phones and what encouraged me to share stupid memes. It was the service that showed me the small online experiences that tend to be more fun.

In 2013, a research report from The Globe and Mail suggested a plan to help save RIM, a company that was previously in Budding and that was not up to Apple and Android, it was BBM. One executive introduced a plan "to pressure wireless operators to adopt" BBM as a complete replacement for traditional text messages. The plan never started. BBM stayed a little bit out there, and eventually it became an optional messaging platform on Apple and Android devices, but it never managed to recover the cultural cache it once had.

I still use group chats today with my friends. I'm in about four. One lives in Facebook Messenger, the others are through iMessage or standard text messages. Those friends are also in their own group chats, through iPhones and a variety of Android phones. Nobody uses BlackBerry Messenger anymore, but it created the basis of how the world still communicates today.

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