MXit battles bad rap and expands across the world

WILDLY POPULAR mobile instant messaging service MXit has had a busy time of it lately. The company has again come under fire in the media over a teenage girl who went missing - reportedly with a man she met on MXit. While challenging these slurs, MXit is also busy with plans to roll out its operations to various new regions.


MXit was the focus of bad press over yet another teenager who disappeared recently, allegedly with a MXit connection. Fortunately, the girl returned home, but MXit found itself on the receiving end of more accusations. The company says it is considering legal action this time.

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MXit said in a statement that the media needed to stop misusing its name in what it believes to be "a dangerous trend to sensationalise headlines". Pointing out that it was not MXit`s fault if a teenager left home, the company said there was no proof the girl had left home with someone she met via the mobile IM service.

Even if she had, MXit points out: "MXit is not the problem. We offer a system that allows people to communicate at a fraction of the cost of sending SMS or voice calls.” Our users send approximately 35 000 messages per second during peak times and the MXit community visits our platform more than 20 million times a day.” Even if it does emerge that she accepted a friend request from a stranger, it is not fair to condemn a technology of close to 15 million users for bad choices made by one user."

Juan du Toit, international marketing manager for MXit, says that while was broadcasting the report on the missing girl in its news bulletin, it flashed a European teen pornography site as the studio backdrop, resulting in unacceptable connections being implied between MXit and these sites. MXit says it believes The Star newspaper reports about the girl`s disappearance also implied unfairly that MXit was somehow to blame.

"We take great care in ensuring that our users are consistently warned to use our network responsibly, to only accept contacts from people that they know and to never reveal their personal information," said .


Despite the slurs, MXit`s popularity hasn`t waned. The service now has over 15 million users in over 120 countries, including Malaysia, Australia, Singapore, Japan, Namibia, Italy, Germany, Norway, the UK, the US and Zimbabwe.

It recently rolled out operations in Indonesia, where it has already accumulated over 1.3 million users.

International brand manager Laura Hallam says: "As MXit is actively expanding internationally, we expect these numbers to grow."  Because the service allows for mobile communications at fraction of the cost of a phone call or SMS (up to 1000 characters for one cent), it`s popular among the youth market and is likely to take off well in emerging markets. Mxit founder and CEO unis says the company also wants to develop relations with NGOs in the various African regions.

"Mobile social networking and instant messaging is virtually non-existent in most [African] regions. This presents a good opportunity for Mxit to revolutionise mobile social networking across the African continent, where there is already a fairly big appetite for social networking, especially in countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Mozambique and Kenya," he said

Besides growing its geographic footprint, the service is also expanding its offerings. Its MXit development zone encourages developers to come up with innovative new applications,  while its new offerings like Mxit skinz, Mxit music and Mxit wallpapers are enjoying strong uptake. It has also just launched its first mobile IM book, Emily and the Battle of the Veil, a fantasy novel written by Karen Brooks, which can be download for R13.50 (50 Moola per chapter). Du Toit expects MXit to offer more IM book titles in future.

"Our intention is very simple - we want to become one of the biggest mobile social network and IM services, and we want to do this by offering features, innovations and services that make a difference in the way that our users live, work and play," says Heunis.

Tags: Instant  Messaging