Yahoo! will soon speak Arabic

maktoobThis morning in Dubai, Yahoo! begins learning a new language – Arabic. We’ve just announced our intent to acquire Maktoob.com, the leading online community in the Arab world. To put this in perspective, Maktoob reaches one in every three people online throughout the region –- or 16.5 million people. This will be Yahoo!’s biggest geographic expansion in years.

This deal is part of Yahoo!’s broader strategy to grow our international business, particularly in emerging markets. In many countries, vast populations -- and advertisers -- are just starting to come online. The potential is tremendous. Yahoo! has a large and growing audience in these markets today, and our acquisition of Maktoob represents the kind of investment we’re making to cater to the needs of these promising regions.

We plan to join forces with the Maktoob team, the strongest in the region, to create locally relevant content, services, and programming. That’s no easy task when you consider the differences between countries like UAE, Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. But we’re committed to literally translating our winning formula for this growing market in many ways, including through locally-based editorial teams.

Initially, we’ll plan to introduce Arabic versions of Yahoo! Mail, Messenger, Search, and our homepage and then eventually local versions of properties like News, Sports, and Finance. We’ll also focus on creating content and services tailored to the region. No other global company has made this kind of investment in local relevance for the Arab world.

Arabs are vastly underserved by today’s Internet offerings. The World Bank estimates that there are 320 million Arabic speakers around the globe, yet less than one per cent of online content is written in their language (despite a vibrant Arabic blogosphere). We have a big opportunity to meet this growing demand, and we think Yahoo!, building on Maktoob’s local expertise, brings the scale and heft to draw many more people online in the region –- and we plan to give them compelling reasons to log on.

We also recognize the Middle East is deeply complex, a complexity mirrored in the online world, and that it will present certain challenges. As an Internet pioneer in the emerging markets, we’ve learned important lessons and we’re committed to responsible global engagement. This means being sensitive to local laws, customs, and norms while also protecting and promoting the rights of our users. We believe our engagement in the Middle East can be a positive force for people by increasing access to information, supporting a thriving marketplace for the exchange of ideas, and bridging local, regional, and international communities.

It’s easy to forget the fastest growing Internet audiences are in the emerging markets. That’s not lost on us. We’re passionate about growing our presence in places like Southeast Asia, India, Latin America, and Africa. And we can’t wait to yodel in the Middle East.

In an effort to keep things brief here on Yodel, we have provided a link to the press release and we have also created an informational site that should answer many of your questions.

Keith Nilsson
Senior Vice President, Emerging Markets