When Facebook bought Whatsapp for US$19 billion, there was a flurry of optimism surrounding BlackBerry Ltd. (TSX:BB)(NASDAQ:BBRY) and its BBM application.

In an interview soon afterwards, BlackBerry CEO John Chen said he would sell for BBM if someone offered $19 billion for it. More tellingly, he said he wouldn’t sell BBM for $2 billion. This was quite a bold statement—net of cash, BlackBerry overall is valued at just $2.5 billion—and was a sign of just how much promise BBM had.

Mr. Chen also said BBM could generate $100 million per year in revenue. That goal was reiterated earlier this year.

Where do we stand now?

Mr. Chen isn’t quite so optimistic these days; BBM is off to a slow start on the revenue front, and Mr. Chen said that his $100 million goal may have to be altered.

Otherwise, he is short on specifics. BlackBerry hasn’t reported a BBM monthly-active-user number (an all-important statistic) since September. Since then, we’ve heard some odd statistics, such as 300 million BBM stickers shared in 2014. But we don’t have any recent numbers about the active user base.

This is a very bad sign. BlackBerry is never hesitant to report good news (understandably). So, there’s a good chance that many BBM users are leaving.

It could get worse

In the messaging business, momentum is everything. Think about it: when your friends start using a messaging application, you will as well. Then your other friends will be compelled to sign up. This dynamic is called a network effect.

For successful messaging apps such as Whatsapp and Snapchat, this network effect is very powerful, and works wonders for these companies. But for those that are struggling, the network effect is a curse, one that’s very difficult to turn around.

And there’s a good chance BBM is struggling. Even if it’s not shrinking, it’s still probably losing market share. If BlackBerry were to make any such announcements, the problem would only get worse. This could be why we are seeing a lack of specifics from the company.

Mr. Chen claims that BBM has a couple of big advantages: its focus on enterprise, and its leadership in security. But it’s still hard to imagine BBM making $100 million, especially if the service really is struggling.

What should shareholders do?

BBM remains a small part of BlackBerry’s turnaround plan. Just for comparison’s sake, Mr. Chen hopes software revenue will reach $600 million this year, a sixth of which would come from BBM.

So, even if the messaging app doesn’t come through as once hoped, the investment thesis is still intact with BlackBerry.

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Fool contributor Benjamin Sinclair has no position in any stocks mentioned. David Gardner owns shares of Facebook. Tom Gardner owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook.