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September 4, 2009

Google News launches Arabic editions

Posted: 12:43 PM ET

Google News this week launched Arabic editions of its popular news aggregator for Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Currently the service allows users to access news from 25,000 sources around the world and is available in more than two dozen languages and more than 50 countries.

Google Middle East and North Africa Product Manager William Kanaan wrote in a blog post, “With more than 40 million Arabic-speaking internet users across multiple countries, we understand the need to provide our users with the most relevant news for their region.”

Technology companies are rushing to become more involved in Arab media. Last week Yahoo! acquired Maktoob.com, the largest online media company in the Arab world. On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that its parent company, News Corporation, is in talks to invest in Rotana Media, a Saudi TV broadcaster.

“There are 300 million Arabic people and virtually no Arabic content online,” Edward Walker, former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel, told CNN. “It is a relatively open field. There is no content. You can duplicate what has already been done and put it in the Arabic language.”

Walker is discussing this online language gap with Arab governments and has received positive feedback from officials who are eager to build out the Internet in their nations and diversify their economy.

Google would not disclose specific numbers on how many people currently use Google in Arabic-speaking nations.

But CNN's senior editor of Middle East affairs Octavia Nasr notes, “The Internet has been playing a major role in bringing important issues to the surface throughout the Arab world. Having the Google and Yahoo services in Arabic will undoubtedly enhance the flow of information from and to the Arab world.”

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