BlackBerry has announced an open beta of its BBM Channels service, which is aimed at adding social networking capabilities to its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) instant messaging app.
Available now, the BBM Channels beta is open to users with BlackBerry 10 devices or BlackBerry OS 5 and above, simply by updating to the newest version of BBM, according to BlackBerry.
BBM Channels is intended to extend beyond a user's friendship circle by allowing them to subscribe to public channels of information. Channel owners can post messages, share pictures, spark discussions and chat directly with subscribers, BlackBerry said.
The new feature was first announced at the firm's BlackBerry Live event in May, at the same time as the firm disclosed that versions of BBM were coming to Android and Apple iOS devices.
Since BlackBerry Live, the firm has been operating a limited beta for select users, but now feels that the platform is ready to be trialled by a wider, more public audience.
At the event, BlackBerry described BBM Channels as a way to connect users to their social network and communities by creating specific channels to receive regular updates, and said it expected commercial brands would use the service to develop real-time engagement with their customers.
As an example, BlackBerry said that Nectar in the UK is using a BBM Channel to highlight competitions, bonus point opportunities and other related tips to promote its loyalty card scheme.
BBM Channels is also expected to be available via BBM on iPhone and Android devices in the coming months.
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