Remember the Arab Spring? Toppled governments. Rocked the Middle Eastern world. It was organized in a large part on the Internet. Activists used social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate. They still do. So how is it that so little of the social Web is in Arabic?
Looking to change that, Taghreedat, a Middle Eastern volunteer translation group, announced it will translate the popular social media site, Storify, into Arabic, as The National reported this week. This is the same group that translated Twitter and recently launched a monumental project to translate thousands of Wikipedia entries.
Storify, which believes “everyone is a reporter,” allows users to pull together stories from places such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs. It has become popular in the Western world where individual people to large news organizations such as NBC and CBC have started using it. While the Middle Eastern news organization Al Jeezera has used Storify in its current English form, the service has not been available in Arabic.
Arabic is spoken by more than 370 million people but is underrepresented on the Web. For example, as The Next Web noted in July, Wikipedia had only 178,000 articles in Arabic, compared to 300,000 in Norwegian, which is spoken by only 3.4 million people.
This doesn’t mean there aren’t any Arabic speakers on the Internet. There are plenty. According to TNW, Arabic has surpassed English as the most popular language on Facebook in the Middle East, and it is the fastest growing language on Twitter.
This is obviously an active, passionate, and currently underserved group—and it’s only going to grow. Mina Takla, the co-founder of Taghreedat, said that 70% of Internet users in Arabic-speaking countries are young.
There should be plenty of opportunities to serve the people in this demographic who are hungry for more online communication and interaction—but only if you speak their language.
During the Arab Spring, we saw what people in Arabic-speaking countries could do with a social Web that was largely in English. Just imagine what they could do with tools and information in their own language.
Now that would be something to Storify.