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Ten billion messages sent to mobile phones during July of 2010; 53-million photos sent during the same month, and more than 710-million logins… these are the kind of numbers that developers from emerging markets look at with envy when studying the mature internet markets of the Western World.
But these statistics belong to South African mobile phenomenon, MXit, which launched the beta version of its Application Programming Interface (API) on Friday in Stellenbosch, the town where it all began.
MXit, predominantly a mobile application, remains the country’s largest social network, trumping international social network leader Facebook.
MXit has extended an invitation to software developers world-wide to create applications that will reach its huge user base, who are hungry for games, education, entertainment and whatever else can be developed for this unique mobile media platform.
“The main obstacles normally facing entrepreneurs in the mobile space, such as support for countless different phones, marketing of their application(s), revenue collection and secure billing, are all taken care of as we not only support more than 2 500 different mobile handsets, but also have our own virtual currency, MXit Moola,” explained CEO Herman Heunis.
During a relaxed, informative address at Stellenbosch’s Wallenberg Institute, Heunis spoke at length about the history and development of MXit, explaining how it began as a platform for “chatting” but has turned into a mobile social network with millions of users from all over the world.
Heunis was realistic about the potential of applications developed for MXit, and instructed developers to be aware of the unique challenges that Africa presents, which include the high cost of data, the deep penetration of old, limited handsets, the unreliability of the networks as well as cultural and language barriers, but was encouraging about how quickly MXit had been adopted throughout the continent.
There are four areas that the company has earmarked as being of particular interest and appeal to its audience; namely communication, entertainment, education and “population involvement”, such as voting mechanisms for TV reality shows like Idols.
Applications which are developed within these parameters are likely to reach a huge audience. “It’s all about creating applications that will excite or fulfil a definite need to the community,” says Heunis.
Developers who are interested in creating applications will need to register at code.mxit.com, where they will receive a test application name and password. Concepts must be approved by MXit before development commences to ensure that they “fall within the MXit brand guidelines”.
Once approved, the applications will be hosted by the developer, and will form part of the application library where users can find and select the content they want from a constantly updated menu list.
The launch of the API is a giant leap forward for MXit and, if successful, will see the company strategically positioned as a unique player in the value-added software market, which is expected to be worth US$340-billion by 2014.
“This is perhaps the most exciting chapter in MXit’s history as a mobile social network,” Heunis concluded, “and time will tell where this new evolution will take us”.