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Yahoo of Arabia



yahoo-logoWell, no one can accuse Yahoo of sitting back and waiting for the Microhoo deal to get underway. Instead the soon to be social media destination (or is it already, I can’t tell) is increasing its reach and social media footprint into the Arabic world with the purchase of Arabic social media site Maktoob.

You’ve never heard of Maktoob? Unless you are part of the Arabic world it is not likely that you would have. In fact, most in the region admit that this entire area is still in its infancy with regard to the level of Internet penetration.  The Maktoob business site tells us

Yahoo! has agreed to acquire Maktoob.com, the Arab world’s largest online community, marking the first major investment by a U.S. technology company in a region where internet penetration is still in its infancy.

The global internet giant said on Tuesday it has entered into a definitive agreement with Jordan-based Maktoob Group to acquire Maktoob.com for an undisclosed fee. Maktoob Business is a part of Maktoob.com.

As a result of this acquisition Yahoo will be able to provide Arabic content and Arabic language versions of its services like e-mail for the first time. This effort will allow Yahoo to compete with, you guessed it, Google who already has the lead in the region.

Yahoo obviously hopes that the acquisition will be met with boatloads of enthusiasm

“With the acquisition of Maktoob.com and our investment commitment to the region, the Arab world will soon get the entire Yahoo! experience in Arabic with relevant local language content, programming and services,” Yahoo! CEO Carol Bartz said in a statement.

While Yahoo continues to fight the good fight on the US home front it is obviously looking to establish a foothold in other world markets since everyone’s money spends the same, so to speak.

“With the combination of the Yahoo and the Maktoob brands … and the breadth of content and services that we have, we expect to be one of the strongest players in the region,” Keith Nilsson, Senior Vice President, Emerging Markets, Yahoo!, told Maktoob Business.

It appears that the key attraction to this area is the relatively low internet penetration numbers of 23.3 percent in the middle East compared to around 70 percent in the US and UK. Of course, moving into this region doesn’t come without its perils. The early concentration will be on offering Arabic e-mail, search and messenger services. How Yahoo! addresses issues around content will be something to keep an eye on. Of course, they aren’t letting on that this is a potential issue.

Arab countries are well known for their censorship and many in the region will be looking to see how Yahoo! reacts when governments challenge it over content.

Nilsson continued, “We don’t plan to change Maktoob’s approach to content on the Matkoob site. We think Maktoob has taken a healthy, balanced approach to the content.”

Well, there you have it. It ought to be smooth sailing as Yahoo enters the Middle East market! Everything is easy in the Middle East, right? Stay tuned as the integration takes place into 2010 to see just how well Yahoo fits into an area of the world that has its own set of rules about most things, including the Internet.