Internet giant Yahoo! now speaks Arabic with its acquisition of Maktoob.com on August 25, 2009, of the Arab world’s largest online portals for $85 million. According to their Senior Vice President, Yahoo! currently enjoys over 44 million users in the Middle East and North Africa region every month. This will make the Arab online world a whole lot bigger, giving Maktoob users access to the best local content and the use of Yahoo!’s services. Specifically, users will enjoy Yahoo!’s email with email Antivirus and Pop-Up blocker, instant messaging services, and online photos, social profiles and the news.
The Yahoo!-Maktoob partnership aims to deliver the best Arabic online community for its users. Yahoo! will acquire Maktoob’s Arabic online community, Maktoob.com and research division, Maktoob Research.
The Maktoob user will see Arabic versions of Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Messenger, Search, and a new Yahoo! homepage and gradually Arabic versions of their news, Sports and Finance features. All these will carry content that is customized for the region. This is the first time a global company has invested in local relevance for the Arabic Middle East. All Arabic versions will include the right to left page orientation.
It is as yet unknown whether there will be a new website address but soon enough all Maktoob registered users will be able to access Yahoo!’s services. Eventually, there will be localized email domains as well.
The big question is – why does Yahoo! want Maktoob? Yahoo! sees almost limitless potential in the emerging international markets, which explains its investment in Maktoob and its intention to gear itself to cater to this growing audience. The result should be an internet market shot with adrenalin where Arab users will be able to get more.
Of course, we should remember that Yahoo!’s biggest rival Google Inc already has Arabic language service.
As far as Maktoob.com is concerned, it was launched as the first free Arabic email service provider back in the late 90’s and is based in Jordan and receives over 16 million Arab users every month, according to Ahmed Nassef, its General Manager. The entire region gets 45-50 million online users spanning North Africa to the Gulf and this is rapidly on the rise each year, making it a highly potential market. Maktoob offers search, payments, social networking, auctions, etc. It has enjoyed tremendous growth from 6 million users in June 2008 to 21.8 million within a year. Page view statistics show 406 million to 1.1 billion during the same period.
If we compare Yahoo! to Google for Arabic content, the Yahoo! –Maktoob partnership plans to customize more content geared to the Arab region than Google, which is more globally focused. Maktoob’s products are likely to be co-branded with Yahoo! and Maktoob and launched by the end of 2009 or early next year. Not all of Maktoob’s products will be included in the deal with Yahoo!; Souq an auction site, CashU (prepaid card payment system), Araby (search), and Tahadi MMO games will now be a part of the jabber Internet Group headed by one of Maktoob’s founders.
What is in it for Yahoo!? By joining arms with Maktoob, Yahoo! is all set to grab its share of the fastest growing internet audience regardless of the challenge they must undoubtedly face, considering the differences between the Middle Eastern countries.
And what is in it for Internet marketers? They get to harness Yahoo!’s cutting edge tools to reach their audience much better.
Article was published as: “Maktoob deal – a great advantage for Yahoo in Gulf”: http://wsi4.me/YahooMaktoob