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SA firm first off the blocks with social networking apps

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With over 200-million Myspace and 60-million Facebook users worldwide, the rapid evolution of the social networking boom has seen many software development companies and individuals post huge growth. South African developer Textstream is one of those which has capitalised on the phenomenon. 

What initially started out as a nonchalant dose of fun and experimentation for Textstream has resulted in the achievement of a massive first mover advantage, positioning it as one of the first engineers of some of Facebook’s most popular and widely-used applications. Textstream is a locally-founded partner company to leading software developer Fontera.
Simon Leps, CEO of Textstream, explains that what was not intended to be a business venture in the first place has resulted in a massive business opportunity that was profitable from day one.
With the perpetual popularity and money making opportunities presented by social networking communities, Leps says “a few guys joking around while playing funny games should no longer be overlooked".
After having fun and uploading their first few applications in June 2007, one month after the official launch of Facebook’s application platform, Textstream experienced massive interest and watched the new applications spread across Facebook like online viruses.
Leps says that once they realised the reach that could be achieved with these applications, the company began exploring ways to leverage these applications for commercial gain. “We began building branded applications for clients, facilitating ways of connecting corporations to online social communities.”
Textstream has successfully launched specialist branded applications for Archers, Butlers Pizza, Thunda.com and Lipton Ice Tea (developed in conjunction with Cow PR). “Valuable brand development opportunities have been realised for these companies within this sought after market,” says Leps.
With Textstream offices based in South Africa and Atlanta, the company has a user base spread across five continents. “There are over 3-million local and international users consuming our applications, with the games becoming rapidly adopted across Facebook, Bebo and now Myspace,” adds Leps.
Although the industry is set for unprecedented expansion, competition is also escalating at a similar rate – and Leps says the cutthroat nature of the industry has driven Textstream to continually develop applications that are market driven and engaging.
“The key is to be completely market driven. With each application forming such an integral part of peoples lives, many describe their daily experiences with some of the applications being as natural as pottering around their homes.
"This type of interaction drives authentic market insights, in their most natural form. With a huge market to support online gaming applications, coupled with the intricate market relevance, there is absolutely no end to the successful deployment of fun and engaging new additions,” Leps adds.