Since the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) unblocked Twitter in August, keen users have been signing up for the site in droves. In fact, the site has proved so popular that the UAE now has the most Twitterers in the GCC. Research from Spot on Public Relations, one of the organisers of this year's Dubai Twestival, showed last month that 44 per cent of the region's "Twiterati" were from the UAE.
But since the Twestival last month, the number of users has jumped even more dramatically, says Carrington Malin, the managing director of Spot On. "The most interesting thing is that the rate in the UAE has been growing at 20 per cent since August, but since the Twestival it's jumped up 125 per cent in less than a month, from 500 users to over a thousand." In comparison, Spot On says that Saudi Arabia has 362 users, Qatar has 117 and Yemen has an estimated four lonely Twitterers.
The Dubai Twestival was part of an initiative started by Twitter users in London to help raise awareness of the trend as well as money for charity. More than 200 cities, including London, New York, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Jeddah and Doha, took part. The event raised $250,000 (Dh918,000) towards providing drinking water for developing nations. It also provided an opportunity for fellow Twitterers to meet.
Dubai's event, held in Barasti at the Mina Seyahi Hotel, drew more that 100 Twitterers. Malin says it was an important step for local users to feel part of a global Twitter movement, and to promote greater use of the site. But why the intense growth in the UAE? "Firstly, the internet penetration in the country has been ahead of the curve for quite some time, like with Facebook," Malin says. "Now there are hundreds of thousands of users in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but the UAE was first with it.
"It was also good timing here because the site was unblocked in August and the last six months have seen a huge focus on Twitter in the global media," he says. "We've also had more events here recently." Apart from Twestival, he says, there have been similar networking events called "tweet-ups" in Dubai, with the next planned for later this month. Malin, who uses Twitter to help promote Spot On, says it's enormously beneficial. "It is part of a social media revolution, which is changing the way people use and discuss news and information. We've been using it as an agency for about three or four months and are connected with 1,000 people. It's been interesting and increasingly useful."