Mxit was once the biggest social network platform in Africa before the rise of smartphones and before the sudden fall of feature phones. Quoting from www.mxit.com mxit was launched in 2005 and had reached a peak of 100 million users globally.
Personally, I was too young to know when it was launched or when I was introduced to it. Between the years 2006-2012 everyone was talking about it. I didn't have a phone then so I used my mom's or at some point borrow from friends just to be online a couple of minutes.
Remember the Samsung E250, Motorola V3 and V360, the Nokia N70 or the blackberry curve. Ahhh the blackberry curve, it was the iPhone X of our times
Parents hated it of course, for good reasons mostly, mxit was anonymous and teens were always falling in love, thus causing concerns over human trafficking, pedophilia and other potential harmful incidents. All horrors that we have now with current social media basically.
It was also used for good. Competitions,Market places, Education and other government initiatives used mxit.
Mxit went international, with just a few counties first, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, a few more in the continent, and further to other continents, India and China were the ones I knew of. The most exciting part for me was that this platform was South African. Giving Facebook a run for their money "take that, Facebook"
At first, Facebook popped. It was web based so everyone could access it. I created accounts for most of my friends in 2011 because we to HAD to have it. Mxit was still the go-to place for chats.
Or what seemed like smartphones I can't be sure. Basically Nokia Simbians, S40s, S60s basically anything that can install WhatsApp and Facebook and also receive notifications even when no apps are open. Blackberry was having the time of their lives then. People eventually started using less mxit and more WhatsApp, WeChat and less Mxit. Samsung worsened things by opting for Android as their OS because later blackberry even stopped trying to be elite and released BBM on Android. Competition stiffened for Mxit.
Fun fact. MTN, an RSA Mobile Network & Internet Service Provider (an equivalent of Verizon in the US) complained to as far as in parliament and ICASA, an Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, that services like WhatsApp are making money in the country but are not giving back, either in tax or investments. MTN was seeing a great decline in profits from SMSes and felt threatened I guess.
By the time mxit realized smartphones were taking over it was a bit too late. Mxit was crap on Android. Unusable in most cases. We even tried having two phones even. A smartphone for everything else and an old brick with internet access for mxit. Mxit tried copying from the competition, even on a Nokia X2 mxit mimicked WhatsApp. On Android it was just a fruit salad of all social networks by UI DESIGN ONLY and UX was a disaster. Some core features didn't work, recovering a forgotten password was almost impossible. It was obvious that they were overwhelmed. They were good at creating a jar file release but now there was the Play store, the Apple store, Blackberry World, Nokia app store Microsoft with their Lumias weren't even in the picture. Management wasn't helping either. The newly appointed CEO even stepped down with just 2-3 years of juggling around the place.
As users pilled up on other platforms, mxit was loosing millions of users year by year. From a peak of about 50 million users monthly in mid 2010-2011 to about 1 million in 2014, the giant fell. I could closely compare the fall of mxit to that of Nokia. They both were ignorant of the changing environment in mobile tech and ignorant towards competition.
I would log in and find that all my contacts are offline and it was sad. The last conversations on mxit were mostly about how will we find each other on Facebook or Twitter.
By the end of 2014, mxit was pronounced dead. Commercial operations were halted and the company announced that they were shutting down India and Nigeria businesses. All intellectual property and assets were donated to an independent charity. Although it was still available for download, it was only good for recovering saved conversations and images from the gallery.
I miss it. I miss mxit okay, and funny enough, I thought I was gonna finish my computer science degree and go work there. My first year in varsity unfortunately was the last I heard of it.
Also I'm reminded of it by how much social media has evolved from then. And I was also motivated to write this after I read this post
Where there's a link to an article talking about how social networks were no longer social
From the fun of being connected with the world to having thousands of friends that you hardly even talk to. To this day, my mom is blocked on Facebook and I also blocked her from viewing my WhatsApp statuses. Some jokes and memes don't fair well with different age groups 😌.
The rise of transparent, open platforms where you give your real actual credentials saw the fall of most other anonymous, nickname chat spots, for my case mxit. It was their time indeed.
Its not gonna be long, till we see similar trends with the current leaders of the web. Although it won't be abrupt, whoever doesn't evolve will remain behind.
It's apparent that we're headed for more decentralized platforms now. Topic specific, controllable and private communities. dev.to is an example. Blogs are becoming a thing. RSS feeds might come back. On Twitter, I see some people opting to move away and join Mastodon, I don't even know what it is but you get the idea.
Quick question, did you even know about it before this post?
Ok I know mxit was big in South Africa, but did it reach your country?
Do you know of any other platform that got left behind with dusty feature phones?
If you didn't read the whole thing and just scrolled to the bottom, look this was long I know. I typed for a good hour here.
If you read up to this far, thanks for your time, Happy New year, and may you have a pleasant year filled with blessings, approved PRs, and joy.
Disclaimer: I don't own rights to image resources used