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CES 2014: BlackBerry begins rollout of BBM networking feature Channels

Amid the relentless doom and mockery of BlackBerry in recent times, one of the Canadian firm’s strategies has actually been well received. The decision to make popular instant messaging service BBM available on both Android and iOS may not be enough to spark a revival for the beleaguered mobile outfit, but the move was widely praised in tech circles and download figures have been strong.

When we met BBM chief David Proulx earlier this week in Las Vegas, he was eager to reveal that BBM had generated 40 million registered users in its first 6 to 8 weeks. Determined to sustain the momentum, BlackBerry is on the verge of rolling out BBM 2.0 on Android and iOS with the former platform including a beta version of the new social feature dubbed Channels.

Channels aims to connect users to brands, celebrities and each other depending on their lifestyle and interests. Users can scroll down tiles linking to these relevant areas and engage with the brand or person from there.

“The way we’ve approached Channels in comparison to other social services is we’re building from messaging upwards,” Proulx told us. “So we’re taking the core experience of real-time authentic conversations with people, and we’re adding a social experience on top of that that gives context for conversation.

"The value that brings a BBM subscriber is that it helps them find other people to chat with about a shared topic. You can think of it as a second order social graph.”

Do we really need another social networking experience? Do we want to talk to strangers about football on BBM when we already have messaging forums, Facebook and Twitter buzzing with conversation from like-minded people?

Like me, you may not be convinced. But with BBM currently providing some much-needed good news for the company, it is unsurprising that BlackBerry is pushing the app forward and enhancing its offering.