Inside Politics

Why we made the first Africa-inspired chat service

Wednesday, August 25th, 2021 00:00 |
Opera mobile browsers business unit Executive Vice President, Jørgen Andersen.

Opera has introduced the first African-inspired chat service in the market. Tell us more about it.

To start with, our chat service is known as Hype. We launched it to the market early this year.

It is the first African-inspired chat service built into the Opera Mini browser, so you can chat, share, and browse in one app with secure end-to-end encryption and little to no data on supported networks.

The launch of this chat service was one facet of Opera’s emphasis on investing and growing the digital ecosystem in Africa, with the goal of bringing more people online.

To make our chat service more African-inspired, we used Kenyans artist Lulu Kitololo and Brian Omolo to create the sticker packs.

What was the inspiration behind integrating Hype into the Opera Mini browser?

 The aim was to provide a smooth and seamless experience of browsing and sharing content from one app.

Opera Mini has a massive user reach since it is one of the most popular mobile apps throughout Africa.

The integration was to help us tap into that market faster. In addition, we saw a possibility of creating a better user experience for people making it easier to share the content they find on the web with their friends.

It is also convenient for the users since they don’t need to install an extra app and spend time switching between the browser and the chat-service.

We didn’t come up with this service to compete directly with other instant messaging services, but we did so to give chat services users a new experience. We are happy with the user feedback and results so far.

We have seen Hype evolving quickly with several new features being added. Tell us more about the latest feature called Hype Clubs. What is the idea behind it?

 Hype Clubs are topic-based channels where users can easily chat about their mutual interests.

If a user is into something, there is a good chance they can find a club for it.

They can share opinions with others, and even create their own club and gather interested people together.

All clubs are public, so no invite is needed to stay in touch and spend time together.

The communities are generally centred around specific topics such as Euro 2020 or Minecraft. Hype suggests clubs to users based on their interests.

Hype was launched in Kenya first as a pilot country, but it has continued to roll out in several other African countries. Where is Hype going next?

Hype is currently available in Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria. We are targeting to launch it in all other English-speaking countries in Africa.

If Hype grows exponentially, are there plans to make it a standalone app?

Possibly, but our policy is to talk about products and features when they are available to our users. We are looking forward to making Hype as convenient and fun for our users as possible.

However, we cannot spill any information before our products and features are shipped to the users.

And what is the status of instant messaging market worldwide?

Instant messaging market is thriving worldwide. The increasing use of instant messaging in business and enterprise chatting, personal chatting, entertainment and social chatting and other industries is driving this growth.

Global instant messaging market is expected to grow at a steady growth in the next five years.

According to a report published by Global Industry Analyst, the global instant messaging market is expected to reach US$39.8 billion (Sh4.2 trillion) by 2027 growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 10.6 per cent for the next seven years (2020-2027).

This shows that demand for instant messaging services will always be there.

Which are the key factors driving the instant messaging market?

People being able to instantly connect up with friends and family, even as the world becomes more globalised, is the major driving factor.

But of course, it’s not just about keeping in touch with those who don’t live near you.

It is much easier to use a free service to text, call or video call a person and the free part is why these things are so incredibly popular.

And what are some of the threats facing instant messaging?

Leakage of sensitive information is the main threat since many of the instant messaging applications make it easy for private information to be exposed and could be used for fraudulent purposes.

That is why hype chats are end-to-end encrypted a method of secure communication that prevents third parties from accessing data while it’s transferred from one end system or device to another.

Other threats are hacking, impersonation and spamming among others.

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