Things to consider regarding Arabic content on the internet: Twenty two countries, four-hundred and twenty million speakers, two continents and one language. It may come as a surprise that there is a huge lack of Arabic content on the seemingly infinite world wide web.
Arabic vs. other World languages
If you consider that there are around two-hundred and sixty million native English speakers worldwide, you will be stunned to see that searching for “How to make ice cream?” in Arabic only comes up with a set of 99.100 results, while performing the same search in English generates an astonishing set of 37.600.000 results. As infinite as the internet may seem, it is only as big as your language.
The first language used on the internet was almost certainly English. A couple of decades ago, it was estimated that English accounted for 80% of cyberspace. As time went by, other languages such as French, German, Spanish, and Chinese gained access to a huge part of this linguistic elite. Where was the Arabic language when this expansion took place?
How connected is the Arab world?
It was estimated that in 2013, only 37% of the Arab world was connected to the internet. This means that Arabic speakers represented 4,8% of the internet population. If we have a look at the article “Top 10 uses of the internet” published by EDN Network, we will find that most internet inhabitants spend their time checking their e-mails, downloading files, making friendships and dating, job-hunting or shopping. If we look closely, these uses mostly involve extracting content from the internet, as opposed to introducing it. If the already scarce number of Arabic users on the internet is engaging in these activities, it is no surprise that there is a striking imbalance between the number of its speakers and the amount of content available in it.
Samples of Arabic content
The issue is particularly contentious when the search engine returns content that is irrelevant to the user’s search or, even worse, in a different language. For example, I did a bit of research and I typed “Benefits of meditation” in Arabic on Google. Not surprisingly, I came across some content in English despite my search words being in Arabic.
Another surprising result Google returned was “Things to be aware of doing in Britain” while my search words were “Things to do in London”.
The behaviour of the search engine demonstrates that Arabic is very under-represented on digital space. When we perform a search using Google, we are actually searching Google’s index of the web. Based on the relevance of the search words, Google serves you the best way it can. Because Google is not well-equipped with Arabic content, it delivers loosely related topics that contain about 25% of the words of the query. This, of course, is not at all Google’s fault.
But it’s not all bad news. The Middle East is a huge market that has not been largely tapped into. Companies and businesses that do not provide their content in Arabic are missing the boat. Some major companies, such as Amazon and Canon Middle East have penetrated the Middle Eastern market and are focused on accommodating Arabic consumers by hosting their digital content in their language. On the other side of the coin, there has been a series of initiatives in the Middle East to boost Arabic content available on the internet. Although slow-paced, these initiatives will hopefully help the Arabic content to expand in order to bring more symmetry between the size of the Arabic population and the volume of the content available to it. After all, the language you speak can deeply shape your experience of the internet.
Are you looking for more Arabic-related topics? Find more about Arabic content here.