Microsoft, Google eye Arabic web growth potential

The further integration of Arabic language capabilities in internet and other technological architecture will grant millions access to the digital world, Microsoft and Google executives said. As devices and applications become more ubiquitous in less developed countries, their content will grow and an embryonic e-economy should flourish, they said. But while Arab world internet use since 2000 has grown faster than anywhere else and access costs have shrunk, content still punches below its weight and ad spending remains tiny. Arabic content is less than 1 percent of world totals though speakers constituting 5 percent of the global population. The Arabic portal of online encyclopedia Wikipedia carries less words than its Catalan site, Google’s regional marketing manager Wael Ghonim said. “One of our biggest missions is to enable Arabic users to find the right tools to enrich Arabic content,” Ghonim said. “It would be great to see more e-commerce in the region, more publishers, more news sites. We are committed to help them.” Regional spending on online advertising was around USD 90m in 2009, up from USD 66.5m in 2008 and USD 38m in 2007 but still miniscule compared to Britain’s USD 5.3bn. Both Google and Microsoft place Arabic in their top ten languages in need of prioritized attention

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