By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO (Reuters) - Research In Motion wants software developers to use its popular instant messaging tool within their applications to enable friends to play games, share and discuss news, and decide where they will eat dinner.
Describing BlackBerry Messenger -- widely known as BBM -- as one of the world's largest mobile social networks, RIM on Thursday took the covers off an update that it hopes will prod more developers to write code for its devices.
The company's BlackBerry App World pales in comparison with those for Apple and Google, which garner much more interest from independent developers.
Some 45 million people use BBM -- which allows BlackBerry users with data plans to instantly pass text messages, pictures and other files without incurring charges from their network carrier -- and 70 percent of them use it daily.
"That lends itself to a different type of experience," said Alistair Mitchell, RIM's vice president for the BBM platform and integrated services. "We're trying to transpose that so it's available to our third-party developers globally."
RIM's director of developer relations, Mike Kirkup, said the simplest use of the updated BBM tool would require just three lines of code while developers could, with a bit more work, choose to route all their traffic through RIM's servers.
Kirkup said developers that integrate BBM could expect existing users to spend more time on the app and for it to encourage more viral distribution.
"For every developer, getting people into your app more and getting more people to find your app are the two major problems they stay awake thinking about every single day," he said.
Among the apps making first use of BBM integration are location services Foursquare and Poynt, news website Huffington Post and augmented reality browser Wikitude.
"This is a good transition for the company but it's not without competition from competitors big and small," said Josh Martin, an analyst of apps at Strategy Analytics.
Online social network Facebook boosts more than half a billion users. Google, whose Android software for smartphones has stolen share from BlackBerry, quickly garnered a huge following with its Google+ social product launched last month and offers its own Google Talk chat application.
And Apple will soon launch iMessage, a tool similar to BBM for use on iPhones, iPads and some iPods.
"Is the next BBM alone the answer -- certainly not -- but taken with other offerings it could create the foundation for an improved experience," Mitchell said.
RIM bought social gaming company Scoreloop in June to help it expand Messenger and enable more interaction in existing mobile games.