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December 02, 2013

BlackBerry Plans to Expand BBM Channels to iOS and Android

Struggling smartphone manufacturer BlackBerry has just released "BBM Channels," a beta for BlackBerry that offers social networking within BBM. The app will also be available for iOS and Android within the next few months.

BBM is BlackBerry's messaging platform, which is available not only on BlackBerry but also as an iOS and Android app. BBM users can conduct multi-person chats, share photos and create profiles on which they can share status updates. Instead of using phone numbers, BBM users share PINs to connect with one another.

BBM Channels allows people to create their own "channels" for social networking. They can manage their channels within BBM. Using BBM features, users can either chat with followers directly or set up "chat hours" for scheduled chat sessions. They can also allow people to post comments without censoring them, or they can choose to moderate the conversation.

Messages on BBM Channels can't surpass 400 characters. Unlike Twitter users, who tweet for all the world to see, BBM Channel users can share posts with groups only, with their contacts or with the public. This video released by BlackBerry offers guidance to users who want to create a channel:

BlackBerry is also offering BBM Channels for Brands. In addition to creating channels, branded users can add Channel PINs and QR Codes to promotional materials. They can pay for featured status on the BBM Featured Channel pane, and they can also take advantage of analytics tools.

Critics say that BBM Channels is a late entry into an already crowded social networking marketplace. They also ask how BlackBerry plans to monetize a free app, pointing out that competitors like Twitter haven't exactly figured out how to become profitable.

If interim CEO John Chen can figure out how to monetize BBM Channels, then BlackBerry can capitalize on the popularity of BBM. Ten million people downloaded BBM for iOS on its release date, indicating universal demand for the messaging platform. 

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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