Thousands hit by Yahoo Maktoob change to e-mail

Plans by Yahoo Maktoob to launch an Arabic-language e-mail service will mean large numbers of internet users will need to change their e-mail addresses.

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Tens of thousands of internet users will need to change their e-mail addresses under plans by Yahoo Maktoob to launch an Arabic-language e-mail service.

The web service has been gradually moving its services to be in line with those of the US web giant Yahoo, which purchased the Arabic portal Maktoob for US$164 million (Dh602.37m) in 2009.

The current email address will be gradually phased out, with "tens of thousands" of users asked to use an address ender instead.

New Arabic-language e-mail and messenger products are due to be launched this year, said Ahmed Nassef, the vice president and managing director of Yahoo Middle East.

"Messenger and mail will be launched in 2011 in Arabic," said Mr Nassef. "We're looking to launch some top properties in the next couple of months."

Yahoo Maktoob's Mail and Messenger product, which includes services such as instant messaging and video calls, are currently available in English but not Arabic.

"You don't have an Arabic interface to these products. However, we have millions of users that use these products," said Mr Nassef.

"Over time we'll transfer the existing subscribers to Yahoo mail... It will be a very clear process to all our users," he added.

The email addresses will not be cancelled immediately.

"Eventually, the previous product will have to cease. The time frame for that has not been put out yet," said Andy Abbar, Yahoo Maktoob's head of product marketing and management for the Middle East.

"It will be a transitional approach - it will not be an on/off switch. We will make sure that no one gets stranded," he added.

Mr Nassef also said Yahoo Maktoob would be investing in more sports content as it looks to boost its online audience in the Arab world.

Yahoo Sports, which was launched in 1997, is the top sports website in the US, and this week it launched ThePostGame, a daily online magazine that is to publish lengthy articles on sport.

Mr Nassef said Yahoo hoped to build its Arabic sports content before something similar to ThePostGame was launched in the Middle East.

"We're continuing to build our Arabic sports property for the Middle East … We'll be investing in the content we're getting and the editorial team that runs our sports properties," he said.

"I don't have a date yet [for the launch of ThePostGame in the Arab world], so it's not something on our road map today, but it's something we'll be looking at."

Yahoo Maktoob says it has 32 million users. The two Yahoo and Maktoob domains rank among the top 10 most-visited websites in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, two of the region's most populous markets, according to the web data company

In terms of sports content, Yahoo Maktoob faces competition from dedicated Arab sites including the popular, which ranks as the 13th most popular site in Saudi Arabia.