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BlackBerry Messenger to shut down, paid version available

The original encrypted BBM app will no longer be available as of May 31 as BlackBerry and Emtek go their separate ways, though the subscription enterprise version is now available.

BlackBerry Limited has made BBM Enterprise available to provide encrypted, secure messaging for consumers to replace the original BlackBerry Messenger.

Emtek had worked with BlackBerry on the BBM app since 2016 hoping to "reinvigorate BBM consumer service." However, in a blog post on the BBM blog, Emtek stated that users were leaving the platform and new users were difficult to sign up, effectively killing the consumer version of BlackBerry Messenger. Users are advised to download any photos, videos or other files before the service shuts down for good on May 31.

BlackBerry had worked with Emtek to provide users with encrypted messaging, but with Emtek's decision to end its service with BlackBerry, BlackBerry decided to provide its own secure platform.

BBM Enterprise (BBMe) is BlackBerry's enterprise-grade encrypted version of BlackBerry Messenger.

According to BlackBerry, it does not sell data, so the service won't ask for a phone number, suggest contacts to users, or track where users are messaging from or what they are sending. To sign up an email address is required.

The way the encryption works, according to BlackBerry, is the sender and recipient each have unique public or private encryption and signing keys, which are generated on the device by a FIPS 140-2 certified cryptographic library and are not controlled by BlackBerry. Additionally, TLS encryption between the device and BlackBerry prevents eavesdropping.

With BBMe, users can group chat; conduct voice and video calls; and edit, retract or set an expiration time on a message. Users will also know when a message is received and read, and can share files, voice notes and their location.

While there is a large number of communication apps available that provide some level of encryption, BBMe is most comparable to platforms like WhatsApp or Skype on the security front, as all three offer end-to-end encryption.

Skype allows for free download and installation, as well as free Skype-to-Skype calls and chatting, but to call a landline or mobile phone from Skype you need to have either a Skype credit or a subscription. There are multiple subscription levels and types, with the least expensive costing $1.99 per month.

WhatsApp does not charge regular users for service but does charge businesses.

BBMe is available now and can be downloaded from Android's Google Play Store, and soon from Apple's App Store. BBMe will be free for the first year, after which a six-month subscription will be available for $2.49.

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