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BlackBerry announces BBM 'Channels' social platform for brands and celebrities

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BlackBerry's BBM service was one of the earliest popular alternatives to text messaging, but it's become less vital amidst competition from Apple's iMessage and a variety of third-party apps. Today, BlackBerry has updated it with Channels, a quasi-social media platform. Any user can create a Channel, after which others can "follow" them to receive updates. It appears to be aimed at brands and celebrities: a public figure can send news or status updates to users, who can then like or comment on them. Traditional one-on-one communication is also possible, but only if the Channel owner initiates a chat.

Unlike many new features, Channels isn't limited to the latest software; it's available in beta on everything from BlackBerry 5 to BlackBerry 10. BlackBerry has also just announced that it's moving BBM onto Android and iOS, something that will vastly expand the reach of this new feature.