The first thing all my friends asked me when they found out I got a Blackberry Smartphone was “What’s your pin?”
Blackberry Messenger, or BBM, is Research in Motion’s instant messaging service that has every self-respecting Blackberry user glued to his or her keypad or touch screen in a way that standard text messaging never could. Though BBM is almost instantaneous, it is limited to Blackberrys and isn’t available to Android or iPhone users.
This messaging service is something that is free, fast and visually appealing with its chat-like feel and interface. Its groups feature has arguably sparked the next step in messaging — group chat.
With a slew of new group messaging apps captivating the tech scene — making the barbecue almost seem like an afterthought — at this year’s South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, it’s apparent that people are embracing this new trend in mobile technology.
But what sets group messaging services like Kik Messenger, GroupMe, Beluga and Fast Society apart is they offer an experience that the current social media players, Facebook and Twitter, cannot offer in terms of messaging.
Facebook is about communicating with friends, just as much as it is about playing Family Feud, but a status message isn’t the way to go about asking your friends, “Where is everyone going tonight?” More likely than not, users will get a reply from that random person who they “friended” during orientation and not from their immediate circle of Friday night regulars.
Now Twitter is best used to broadcast information to a large following, rather than foster one-on-one interaction. Different features like @replies and direct messages can accomplish a more intimate form of communication between users but is cumbersome and leaves people searching for more than 140 characters.
This is where group messaging takes off. Group messaging is set up in a way that allows users to communicate with the people they would most likely text or BBM — and not the suspect person who started following them on Twitter after a tweet about Phil Collins retiring from music.
Group messaging changes communication. There’s no fancy method of delivery or hoops to jump through; it’s simply a way to contact people in an interruptive fashion through SMS or push notifications. It’s a way to restructure and create social circles on the fly, while specifying how private or public, with GroupMe’s “joinable” groups, users want their conversation to be.
Andrew Weiser is a senior journalism major. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org