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RIM kicks Kik off Blackberries: Revokes keys, disables push (kik.com)
113 points by alanh 2578 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 71 comments

This is just painfully stupid. Finally an app on Blackberry actually garners some attention, and RIM kicks it off the market.

For anyone who has ever bitched about Apple being draconian, this is just another example of what the mobile app world was like before the App Store. It really wasn't all unicorns and rainbows and happy developers skipping through the meadow. It was locked down and cost absurd amounts of money to break into.

It depends how you define 'stupid'.

I see advertisements day in and day out for BBM. Not for RIM's latest phone, not for a new RIM app, but specifically for BBM. Why? Because RIM has realized that one of the only things keeping a large % of their user base around is BBM. Their OS is horrible, their devices are nothing special, but BBM is arguably the best mobile messaging product out there (so good that Kik pretty much copied it exactly).

I have friends that won't replace their BBs solely because they feel as though they'll lose touch with their friends that use BBM (I know, SMS, email etc. all seem like fair replacements but in practice they aren't...BBM is superior for a # of reasons).

Now, what is Kik doing? It is offering a comparable messaging platform that allows BBM users to speak with their friends no matter what device they are using. If I tell my friends with BBs to get Kik and we all start to use it consistently, then eventually one of us can go get that iPhone we've always wanted. Then another one etc.

Kik is on the verge of breaking into the walled garden that is BBM and RIM is obviously not too happy about it.

What exactly is so good about BBM? I've never owned or really spent much time using a blackberry because of the other reason's you've mentioned.

"Their OS is horrible, their devices are nothing special."

So what is it that users find so great about it? (Asking legitimately out of curiosity not sarcastically )

No joke, every BB person I've ever talked to lives and dies by their BBM and plastic keyboard.

Couple of reasons people like BBM so much (observation of BB friends):

1) You can see when someone is typing

2) It's very fast and feels like your talking with someone on gchat/aim/etc

3) Most BBM users are already "locked in" with eachother via BB PIN #'s. It would be like changing your phone number if you got off BB

4) A person in the US can BBM a person in the UK for free

Except for the plastic keyboard, I don't see any advantage. Use a decent Jabber client (I'm using Beem on Android) and you get all these features on gchat, with just your gmail address. Plus, figure out the priority thing right, and you can have all the messages delivered to the right client. GTalk broadcasts to all clients by default, but the better IM clients give you an option to send and receive.

^^Agree. Kik is a BBM clone. Surprisingly badly done, actually, from what I can tell - but still, it's aiming straight for BBM.

If it gains traction, it might turn into a BBM competitor which is available on all platforms, thereby removing _the_ primary reason BBs sell like hotcakes here in Asia.

I guess I should backtrack - BB in SE Asia (and probably other regions world wide) is THE must have phone for every student, college or high school. You either have one, or you want one.

The reason for this is BBM. Clever marketing and the fact that most students already have BB make it a social must have. You either have a BB or you're out. They're selling them by the bucketloads, it's quite incredible.

Without BBM, there is no way BB would sell _any_ phones over here. So clearly they must protect it. If students somehow would get turned on to Kik, and you didn't need the - let's admit it rather ugly-looking - BB to use it, Blackberry sales in the region would die overnight.

Anyone else find it deliciously ironic that BB is now blatantly doing what Apple is usually accused of doing?

Which part of "SE Asia"? BB is popular in Indonesia, but that's about it.

The "it" phone everywhere else has always been iPhone and shipping times have been stuck at 2 weeks as recently as early November.

Google Trends bears this out. There is not a single ASEAN country other than Indonesia where BB comes out ahead in normalized searches.

BB is also the phone to have in Venezuela, which I just visited a few weeks ago. All because of BBM.

The lock-in argument doesn't hold much water.

RIM already provides IM clients for Google Talk, Yahoo, and MSN, with pretty much the exact same UI and features as BBM. The quality of their Google Talk client is one of the things keeping me on BlackBerry.

The Google Talk client is horrible. It wastes tons of CPU when it's loading up the contact list, and still uses a bunch just while idling. If you have it on all the time, it will eat your battery away such that a Blackberry 9700 with no other apps running won't last a full day. I tested this on my own device a while ago, it might have gotten better, but I doubt it.

Blackberry Messenger (BBM) also has a typing indicator, delivered and read indicators, and it's faster than anything else out there.

Also, the fact that it's only on mobile devices and not desktop computers means that you know your message will get delivered to someone's pocket instead of the computer they may have left on. An odd side effect of its lack of portability.

None of these are especially created for mobile. Or aimed squarely at BBM with the same features.

I had been thinking about creating BBM for other platforms simply because I'd like to have it on my iPhone.

How would you create a BBM client for other platforms? You wouldn't be able to authenticate with BB servers since you have no PIN.

WhatsApp is a near approximation of BBM on the iPhone (and other devices, I believe).

Their reliability isn't great, however.

WhatsApp has better reliability, more handset clients, more features, and more users.

BBM = Mobile - Mobile Messaging

GTalk/MSN etc = Mobile - Desktop Messaging

The use cases are completely different.

What if you run gtalk on your blackberry, and I run gtalk on my android phone. Is that still Mobile - Desktop?

Fair enough, and that's quite likely what RIM is thinking.

But do you think it's a smart strategy for RIM to try to stay relevant by blocking hot apps on their platform? would it not be a more sane strategy for them to make their devices better, and to open up their platform so that others can easily develop more great apps on it?

This just seems like such a dumb short-sighted move.

It's only dumb and short-sighted until you look at the amount of money at stake.

BBM truly is the only app holding a great many people back from ditching their blackberries for android or i-devices. The second we find a reliable way to transition away from the blackberry, today, we would. The blackberry has to keep a lock on it's last and only killer app while it finds a way to stay relevant.

^^^ Yes.

Kik developeR was previously a project manager on bbm I believe.

Edit: someone below says he was an intern

I think that point about Apple being draconian is that Apple's marketing department wants you to believe that Apples ecosystem is "all unicorns and rainbows and happy developers skipping through the meadow." It's not necessarily an implicit claim that we are moving backwards (though Apple as a company may seem to be moving backwards in their transition computer -> mobile).

Actually I loaded many programs onto my phone without RIM getting involved.

App World is just their attempt to copy the Apple "curated" model, with worse results. Access to the BB push infrastructure is a special case though.

  [Update: RIM has now responded with the following comment,
  referring to a breach of "contractual obligations," but is 
  not specifying what those obligations were: "RIM became 
  aware of a number of issues and customer concerns regarding 
  the Kik app and service. Following discussions with Kik, the 
  app was removed from BlackBerry App World on November 12. 
  Upon further investigation, RIM concluded that Kik had 
  breached contractual obligations. Based on the broad scope 
  and seriousness of the issues and concerns, RIM terminated 
  its agreements with Kik and withdrew RIM’s support for Kik’s 

Translation: "You're competing with our BBM service and you have to go before it starts costing us sales".

If RIM gave them no indication of why their keys and access have been revoked, that'd be understandably weird.

However, RIM previously took them out of App World because of privacy and battery life concerns. These are two of the most basic concerns of mobile app users.

If that's why they were permanently yanked from App World this time, RIM is acting in everyone's interest.

Regardless of how viral your company and it's products have become lately, your users should come first.


1) Kik claims to have already submitted a new version of the app that addressed these concerns.

2) The app was already approved and into the store. How is his responsible behavior?

3) How does further disabling Kik’s ability to distribute new versions of the app (by revoking signing keys) help?

4) How does crippling the UX (by disabling push) of the existing install base help anyone? That isn’t, as you say, putting users first! (And I don’t buy that this would improve batter life — this is the whole idea of push, it’s better than long or frequent polling!)

I’d bet this is almost entirely because they see Kik as a competitor to BBM (which it is).

Edited in reply: Removing from the app store is one thing (done ~2 weeks ago). Breaking existing installs for no real good reason is pretty indefensible, IMO.

1) Kik claimed. RIM may not have agreed.

2) Maybe it was flagged after it was originally approved.

3) I agree. I'm not sure how submitting a BB app works - I assumed the key was at app-level, not company-level, but I've never submitted a BB app before.

4) This is probably related to the battery life issue.

Don't get me wrong - If they kicked it out for being "too similar to BBM", that's a dick move. But if Kik didn't patch their app to sufficiently fix the battery and privacy issues, it makes sense that RIM wouldn't want to officially distribute it.

I'm not sure how submitting a BB app works

With your dev license, you get access to RIM's signing service. You can distribute code any way you like, but you have to run it through the signing servers before it will run on a device. To shut you down, they just disable your account. Code that is already signed will run forever.

That's not actually true. You can sign an app without going through RIM; they provide code that does it. (Unlike iPhone, you can just download an app from anywhere on the Internet and install it, as long as somebody has signed it with any key at all.) However, you can't use their push servers without a RIM-signed app, which has apparently been revoked in this case.

Right, I forgot, there is a subset of the API that can be used by unsigned code but it's extremely limited.. just UI stuff I think.

> 1) Kik claimed. RIM may not have agreed.

On the other hand, Apple generally doesn't like other people to play fast and loose with their own user's data, yet no peep so far from them?

Kik is exactly what the mobile ecosystem needs. The only thing it needs is brand support. If Apple and Google made official messaging apps based around a central system with BBM's features, it would probably muscle RIM into either joining on the open messaging solution or dying a slow death.

If both Android and iOS devices could talk to each other via a system like BBM's, it would easily mean RIM's services getting phased out. It's either BBM for the masses or BBM only for Blackberry users.

I use a Blackberry because of the BBM. In my country it's a necessity, so it doesn't matter how much I want an iphone, it makes no sense while Blackberry and it's messaging app are so widespread and there are really no competitors.

If Kik where to get bought by Google and the big G gave free access to that service (and Apple integrates it by default on it's iPhone and iPad) it could very well mean RIM's demise.

The Kik fairy tale never made sense. One of the guys behind the company was a PM at RIM, if I remember correctly. The entire UI of the app is a direct rip of BlackBerry Messenger. It was only a matter of time -- I wonder when RIM will sue them.

Sue them for what? Are trade secrets involved? Are the bitmaps directly lifted from RIM property? Because there is no copyright protection for the general idea of an interface!

Edit: Patent ≠ copyright, but nonetheless a patent suit would be interesting, damned weak, and unlikely to be resolved for years (IANAL)

Because there is no copyright protection for the general idea of an interface!

This isn't actually true, you can patent interfaces. Notoriously, a TV channel guide which has a grid interface with channels and times represented as columns and rows is patented (originally by TVGuide, now owned by Rovi). Every Guide you see on a cable or satellite box in the US pays a licensing fee to Rovi.


Wow, and filed in 1998? How is every spreadsheet in the world not prior art?

Don't Apple's lawsuits against Android almost completely revolve around general ideas of interfaces?

A patent suit is possible. RIM has a number of mobile UI patents. I'm not familiar with Kik's UI, but if it's as close as I've heard, they could be infringing on a patent like this one: http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=6lKrAAAAEBAJ

He was an intern.

As have been a disproportionate number of Canadian software engineers, one should add.

Software interns in Canada get paid. He was a Waterloo student where he'd be required to do the co-op program since he was an engineer and he'd be paid pretty well at RIM. I did the co-op program and was able to finish undergrad without any debt because of it.

I'm not sure what you mean by this.

RIM employs a pretty absurd number of software engineering interns. If you've done software internships in Canada, odds are you've worked for RIM at some point.

I've also heard horror stories stemming from this - some teams have such a high reliance on interns (cheap labour, hurrah!) that code quality is truly abysmal.

Waterloo is a hub of software engineering education in one of the most populous areas of Canada. A LOT of Canadian computer geeks went to school there. By extension, lots of them have interned at RIM, as it is so close: http://www.rim.com/company/maps/index.shtml

Okay I see what you mean. Also, I went to Waterloo for ECE.

This is surprising to see. It has to be some type of a misunderstanding. If RIM took this down because kik competes with BBM then they are taking yet another step towards putting themselves out of business.

Not duplicating or competing with the BlackBerry email as well as messaging (BBM) is an explicit part of one of the several legal agreements that developers and RIM partners have to agree to. Technically, KiK is in violation of these terms, which in turn gives RIM legal grounds to kick them out.

Does that mean Whatsapp is also in violation?

As soon as we have a reliable app that competes with BBM for ease of use and reliablity and is cross platform, everyone I know who can afford it will immediately dump their blackberries and switch to Android or iPhones. Staying in touch with their friends who can't afford such changes right now and are "stuck" on the blackberry right now is the only thing keeping a whole lot of people from dumping them.

Once again somebody suffers because they compete directly with a core feature of a platform they use to distribute/market themselves.

It wouldn't surprise me if all (FB, Apple, Twitter, now RIM) but one (Android) digital platform curation teams acted in the same way. Of course, it is their platform, their right.

Android can afford not to because Google have a different business model.

Android seems to have the same problem with Skype: since Google's business model is different from the other mobile OS developers, it falls to the handset makers and carriers to make those sorts of ridiculous decisions.

Verizon being the sole carrier with Skype will hurt Skype's adoption on mobile phones because if you want to talk to someone with an Android phone, they have to be a Verizon customer. Thus, it isn't a given that they will have the ability to Skype, so you use the mobile phone network, inferior as it is, instead.

Sole carrier with Skype in the USA.

Android seems to have the same problem with Skype

The oddity of Skype is entirely Skype's making -- they saw a revenue model negotiating with carriers (the idea being "Get a Verizon Android phone because then you can get Skype"), so that's what they did. They control their own product, so there it is.

I'm not sure publishing an open letter to Blackberry is going to help Kiks cause. If there was any chance of them getting back onto Blackberry they should have kept the conversation private. The publicity generated by this is just going to cause resentment at RIM and Kik isn't big enough for RIM to worry about yet.

That's strange, while that's a normal breakfast task for Apple, RIM's really not the company to do things like that, even if the app affected battery life and what not. Pretty sure there are some dirty things going on behind the scenes, maybe someone else can provide more insight.

I can only speculate on the reasoning, but Kik competes with BlackBerry Messenger, which is one of the key features that keeps Blackberry competitive in the smartphone market. Its exclusivity to Blackberry devices gives them some network-effect lock-in to the vendor and it is the best messaging system out there.

A lot of their marketing is focusing on how great BBM is and how buying a Blackberry gives you access to this exclusive network of people. BBM is also the source of all those issues in UAE and India where its so secure that governments were threatening to block Blackberry because they couldn't snoop on BBM messages. Basically, BBM is the killer app on Blackberry.

Kik would commoditize BBM across any platform allowing users to freely move between them. The literature for Kik itself describes it as a BBM for all platforms, and I can see how RIM would be concerned that they'd lose one of their few advantages in the smartphone market if Kik supplanted BBM. Again, not sure if this actually was the "behind the scenes" cause, but RIM would definitely have a motivation to kill Kik.

That sounds probable, but I don't think that's the whole story. First, every major IM provider is available on BlackBerrys (AIM, MSN, GoogleTalk, ICQ, WhatsApp...). Most of these clients are even co-written by RIM themselve and use the same BlackBery-PUSH service as BBM. Just take a look here: http://appworld.blackberry.com/webstore/category/51?lang=en

Also they didn't just kick them out of the store, but revoked PUSH and signature keys, which is pretty a drastic move on their side. That makes me certain there is more to it.

> That sounds probable, but I don't think that's the whole story. First, every major IM provider is available on BlackBerrys

Other IMs are very, very crummy experiences compared to BBM between BB devices. Kik is the first one that may be able to compete with and replace BBM (if only because it took a lot of "inspiration" from BBM), which is a big danger for BB as BBM is the only strength they have in the consumer market (in the US a blackberry is a corp phone, but in Europe it's used a lot by high-texting-volume teenagers and young adults)

Can someone who has used BBM explain why it's so great?

It's simple, secure, stable, allows for group chat, notifies you if the message was received or not, and is pre-installed on BlackBerries so everyone with a BlackBerry has it.

Secure? Stable? Could you elaborate? Are all messages encrypted? Are other applications so terrible now-a-days that "doesn't crash!" is a feature? Other than that, it sounds like IRC, with a read notification for those who just need to know if their message hasn't been read yet, or they're being ignored.

I was reading the page looking for grandparent's question, and I still don't see why bbm would be such a huge feature that bb owners just can't live without. Sure, I can see how it may beat sms where international communication may be concerned, and texting someone in a different country doesn't work, and I can see how the group chat is useful, but every single other IM client can offer the same thing... I just don't get it.

LandLandon, BBM is so popular for the reasons mentioned above. But the main reason is because it comes pre-installed with every blackberry - Just like Microsoft and Internet Explorer, you might as well ask the same question as to why Internet Explorer on windows is the most popular web browser in the world? when at the same time, it's the worst/most hated.

Ted Livingston worked for RIM and saw problem, a big gap that needed to be filled in. Which was, taking the best black berry app and making it accessible on every major smart phone out there.

The killer feature is that you know when the message was opened. With SMS/text-messaging you have no idea if it was received by anyone - since it might have been sent to a landline #.

How many times do you mistakingly sms someone's landline, from your address book?

It's interesting that in North America it was an intentional decision to make land and mobile #'s indistinguishable, yet we are now supposed to keep track. I'm probably a bit sloppy with my contact list, but still people forward calls to their mobiles or transfer numbers. I've definitely sent SMS messages to the wrong place before - also because people change their mobile numbers frequently.

Goodbye Blackberry.

The ironic part is that Kik is a Canadian company also in Waterloo.

Wait so the company that's set out to clone BBM is located in the same place as RIM? Dramatic Chipmunk time! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1Y73sPHKxw&feature=playe...

Where's the irony?

Tragic irony, not verbal irony. "Paradox that arises from insoluble problems." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irony#Tragic_irony

RIM kills Kik to save BBM but is probably killing themselves.

It's like rain on your wedding day.

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