The BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) instant messaging app is something of an understated success story if you believe RIM's figures. The company claims to have an active user base of over 35 million and also states that over 1.5 million new users join the BBM community each month.
So what is RIM doing to foster further growth and engage with developers in this space?
In an effort to ignite programmer interest and activity, the company recently opened up availability of the APIs to the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) platform -- the concept being that applications such as social gaming, collaboration tools and 'networks within networks' can now have BBM functionality built into them. This means that the developer "could" benefit from exactly the same kind of viral growth as BBM itself has.
In practice, this proposition means that developers can use a variety of APIs to give their apps read access to BBM contact lists, user profiles and groups. It also means that while users are playing with their apps to chat, they can also share files such as pictures, voice notes, videos and music.
If I have a criticism to make here, it is that the BlackBerry developer zone is so user-focused that RIM hammers home the user messages before it gets on to the technology.
But once they get stuck into what developers can actually accomplish, there are a variety of functions to cover including the options to:
- create custom areas within the user's profile for promoting recent application activity or storing trophies and achievements;
- initiate application-to-application background communication through BBM for sending and receiving application instructions, such as moves in a game or any other application state changes;
- initiate file transfers;
- the ability to share applications virally with friends in a contact list.
According to the company's website, "While this current beta is for Java developers only, BlackBerry WebWorks developers will soon be able to get in on the action as well. In the next beta drop - slated for April 2011 - the BBM Social Platform is intended to include full support for the BlackBerry WebWorks platform, ensuring that BlackBerry WebWorks apps have access to all the same APIs and features that Java developers do."