Twitter plans Arabic website

The Middle East is fertile territory for an Arabic micro-blogging site, with 60 million internet users.

Twitter plans to offer an Arabic version of its website next year, as well as opening up its advertising to the public.

Since its launch, Twitter has become one of the world's most popular online services, with 175 million registered accounts. It is on track to double its user base by the end of next year, with more than 370,000 people signing up each day.

To keep up with the momentum of Twitter's growth and to help it generate more advertising revenue, the website plans to translate its service into Arabic, said Biz Stone, the creative director of Twitter and one of the website's three founders.

Twitter was founded by Mr Stone, Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams in 2006 after a brainstorming session to discuss providing a service to share messages of 140 characters in length.

The website is already available in French, Italian, German, Spanish and Japanese, as well as English.

"People use [Twitter] differently around the world but people also use it similarly. People share links, people talk about what's going on with them," Mr Stone said in an exclusive interview with The National.

Mr Stone was in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, when he spoke at the inaugural Semiconductor Vision Summit, a discussion of advanced technology and innovation hosted by the Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC).

Although there are about 60 million internet users in the Middle East, Twitter has not yet achieved the same level of penetration as it has in other markets. It also faces competition from Watwet, a Twitter-like service in Arabic that by last year had registered about 25,000 users, according to the most recent data available.

Twitter has begun offering "promoted tweets", in which certain messages are given higher placement in its sidebar for a fee.

The company's efforts in integrating advertising into its website without alienating a fickle user base has been viewed as a success, said Mr Stone.

"With promoted tweets and trends, our limited group of advertisers are thrilled with it. We have tons of people knocking at our door because the engagement rates are so incredibly high," he said.

Mr Stone said Twitter had plans to open up its promoted tweets to its entire user base, allowing advertisers to display messages to a wider audience. "It doesn't have to be limited to the 50 or 100 companies we're partnering up with now," he said.

It will also split advertising revenue with third-party companies that use Twitter's stream of messages for external products such as analytical and management services.

"You don't have to build a sales forcet and we have very high-quality ads that are resonating with users," said Mr Stone. "That becomes a very attractive thing for an ecosystem partner to make money and for us to get a wider distribution."

Twitter also plans to offer the service through text messaging, bypassing the need to use the website directly.

"Which means from a rudimentary feature phone you can get all the benefits of the information from our network that you would from a fancy broadband network in New York City," said Mr Stone.

Aside from advertising, Twitter also generates income from licensing its data to companies such as Google and Microsoft, which are interested in providing real-time information on search queries.