In May 2010, Safaricom launched MXit, an instant messaging service that enables users to chat, share and connect (privately or in chat zones) by exchange of text messages, emoticons and photos among others.
The service, first launched in South Africa in 2007, allows users to send instant chat messages instead of sending text messages via one’s phone. Due to this, it is cheaper to use MXit than send an SMS.
But almost two years since the service was launched here, Safaricom has made no announcement regarding the adoption of the service as relates to user numbers as the user volumes can contribute to the network’s data revenues.
Therefore, the announcement about Safaricom’s MXit users could just be made the same way the firm gives out regular updates about its subscriber volumes and more specifically, M-PESA users.
This is crucial considering that MXit is very popular with South Africa youth, where it had about 10 million users by in 2009. The service currently has more than 43 million registered users in 128 countries globally (30 million of whom are drawn from Africa), with the number of daily registrations being about 50,000.
It would therefore be important to compare how the local market – especially the youth – has adopted the use of the service that has already been endorsed by South Africa’s Department of Education for country-wide mathematics instruction and the US State Department to promote president Obama’s visit to Africa.
MXit, which was last year bought by World of Avatar chief executive Allan-Craig Knott for undisclosed sum (though rumours put the figure at about $ 55.6 million) from founder and chief executive Herman Heunis, generates its revenues from advertising, chat room usage and content sales.
The service is also device agnostic, supporting over 3,000 models of internet-enabled mobile devices and can be installed onto a user’s laptop or desktop. Once a user is registered on MXit, he/she can proceed to add friends and start chatting and access the other services.
The service is however facing competition from the likes of Twitter; Facebook and other emerging smartphone messaging services.