BlackBerry hardware may be languishing unloved on warehouse shelves but the company formerly known as RIM’s long-in-the-tooth mobile messaging client, BBM, ain’t dead yet. Indeed, it’s enjoying a bit of revival — firstly because the company (finally) released it on rivals’ platforms (Android and iOS) where many a former BlackBerry user ended up.
And secondly because, well, mobile messaging as a space is on fire — tipped by analysts for mass adoption next year and a doubling of its global user-base from 1BN to 2BN by year’s end.
That fire is clearly consuming a portion of the attention that used to be funnelled into traditional social networks — redirecting those eyeballs into messaging apps, as kids who previously Facebooked their buddies incessantly now spend their energy sending Snaps or WhatsApps instead (in October Facebook ‘fessed up to some declining usage among teens).
All of which is good news if you’re the app maker of a directory style app for BBM. Search4BBM is just that. When we last wrote about the app, just over a year ago, we described it as “a 411 / Yellow Pages” style system for BBM private users and BBM businesses.
It basically lets people locate others on the BBM network, which uses a pincode system to link chatters to each other (ergo, you need a BBM user’s Pin to send a connection request so you also need a Pincode directory to unlock potential new BBM buddies). Users of the service, which gets its Pin data solely from user submissions, can set their preferred “security level” so their Pin can be found by everyone, only social friends, or only people they personally approve.
Search4BBM has more than 3M BBM pincodes listed in its directory, and allows users to find friends’ BBM Pins by connecting it with their Facebook account, or find others’ Pins by searching by various other criteria — including gender, country, profession, location, GPS, age, city, state and BBM business pages.
At the time we last covered the app (November 2012) it had some 1M active global users who were apparently performing 6M searches per month. (It defines active users as people who have used the app at least once a month — while logged in users makes an average of 11 to 15 searches per log in, which may sound a lot but users in some countries use its service as a potential date directory too). Search4BBM launched its service in June 2011 and crossed the 1M active user mark by mid 2012.
After that point its fortunes dipped, as you’d expect — in step with declining usage of BlackBerry’s own platform. Founder Barak Hirchson tells TechCrunch it was getting about 50% less traffic in 2013 than it did in 2012. In 2011 and 2012 it had between 11M to 14M searches per month, but in 2013 this dropped down to a low of between 2M to 4.5M monthly searches.
However, Hirchson says things have picked up in the past two months — i.e. since BlackBerry liberated BBM from its own walled garden, and allowed it to roam across Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. It’s now seeing 5.5M to 7M searches per month, according to Search4BBM.
“After the BBM launch for iOS and Android we instantly saw the users coming back to use BBM,” he adds.
Search4BBM launched an Android version of its app about a week ago — giving this the practical name of BBM Pin Finder — and says it’s managed to pass 3,000 users (without any marketing/advertising) for this version of the app. It’s expecting to hit 2M new users on Android in the next three months.
iOS and BB10 versions of its apps are also due soon — within “weeks”, adds Hirchson.
If you’re wondering where in the world BBM remains most popular, as measured via searches of this single BBM directory service, the top 10 countries performing searches are as follows:
India – 11%
South Africa – 11%
Nigeria – 9%
Egypt – 8%
United Kingdom – 8%
Indonesia – 8%
United Arab Emirates – 5%
Malaysia – 5%
United States – 5%
Canada – 4%
“In India and Indonesia the users use us as ‘Tinder‘ for BBM,” adds Hirchson. “Most of the users search for friends and for new dating with strangers. They search by ‘location near to me’ sort the users by the gender and age and start meeting new users by BBM.”