Popular messaging service Twitter just announced that it would be broadening its appeal by launching in Arabic next year. Twitter co-founder Biz Stone announced the plans in an interview with Abu Dhabi’s The National.
Currently, Arabic speakers who want to use Twitter must either tweet in English, tweet in “Arabish,” a system used to render Arabic words using Roman numerals and letters, or use one of the Arabic-language Twitter clients instead of the Twitter website itself.
Fast Company notes that optimizing the Twitter homepage for the Arabic language will be a bit of a challenge for Twitter, since Arabic is read from right to left instead of left to right.
Considering how many Twitter users use the service via text message, another challenge is the fact that many cell phones don’t have Arabic keypad options available.
But according to Fast Company, the biggest challenge of all is the competition:
“WeziWezi is a Jordan-based Twitter clone with an IM-based interface and Watwet is an extremely popular Twitter-like service that is integrated with Twitter (users post simultaneously to Twitter and Watwet). However, Watwet has more sophisticated viewing and sharing functions than its American counterpart. Watwet, which is also based in Jordan, had more users than Twitter as of 2009–but most of these users were Jordanians.”
Twitter’s announcement definitely makes good business sense. Per Wikipedia, there are over 280 million Arabic speakers in the world today. In a recent article on Mashable, Christian Arno of Lingo24 noted that the use of Arabic online is up by 2500% over the past 10 years. The number of tweets coming in from the Middle East and Africa rose by 142% from June of 2009 to June of 2010, and offering the service in Arabic should help increase adoption.