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Why BBM for Android, iOS success will be short-lived

Al Sacco | Oct. 30, 2013
The new BBM for Android and iOS apps might not be compelling enough to make the average iOS or Android user switch from their messaging apps of choice. Here's why.

"BBM is set apart in the mobile messaging space by offering immediacy and a feeling of connecting and collaboration that mirrors the feeling of a face-to-face conversation, all within a simple and easy user experience&We also put control back into people's hands. Let's not underestimate the importance of deciding who will have access to you and your information and how you will build a community of those people."

That's a clear knock on the popular WhatsApp messaging service. WhatsApp has garnered attention in recent days for privacy issues. That app requests access to your device contacts, which could put sensitive information at risk. But the access also enables features related to those contacts, such as the ability to quickly determine who uses WhatsApp and then add them to that app's contacts.

BBM doesn't require access to your contacts, but you also cannot see and quickly add people who are also using BBM. If you care about privacy, BBM has the advantage, but if you care about convenience, the advantage goes to WhatsApp. (I asked BlackBerry some more specific questions about cross-platform BBM security weeks ago, just before the initial launch complications, and I was told the company was working on setting me up with someone. I never heard back.)

Most people simple don't care about security or privacy, unless they've already been burned. I tell this repeatedly to companies that pitch me security related ideas or products all the time. And I tell users that they absolutely should care about both privacy and security. But they don't listen.

I have a friend named Mikey who lives in the woods of Western Mass. Occasionally I visit him to watch a football game or for a barbeque. Mikey always laughs when I lock my car doors after I arrive. Mikey and his wife never lock their car doors at home. I always lock my car doors, wherever I am; I've been burned before, and I care about the security of my vehicle and possessions.

I mention this analogy, because Mikey feels safe in leaving his car doors unlocked at home; nobody has ever broken into his car there. Is Mikey right? Am I? I'm not naive enough to really believe my car is truly secure; a motivated thief could just break the window. (Trust me, I know.) And I don't actually think someone will steal my loose change while I'm parked in Mikey's driveway. But the point is I care about security enough to lock my doors all the time. Mikey takes his chances in favor of convenience.

Most mobile device users feel safe, because they haven't been violated. Right or wrong, privacy and or security are mostly nonissues for them. And they don't really care if BBM is more secure or not, so for most users, security/privacy isn't much or advantage of disadvantage.


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