Unofficial websites for the Dubai Metro rank higher in search engine results than the official Roads and Transport Authority site. DubaiMetro.eu, published by a Seychelles-registered company with no links to the RTA, is listed in the top three search results for "Dubai Metro" by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft's new Bing search engine.
Other unofficial sites, news reports and Wikipedia entries also turn up high in search results, but the official RTA site does not rank in the top 10 on Yahoo or Microsoft and is sixth on Google. The RTA site lacks the simple technical features needed to ensure pages are fully visible to search engines, said Jon Santillan, a Dubai-based internet professional who specialises in helping businesses rank highly in search results.
"Even though RTA.ae is an official website for the Dubai Metro, search engines will not know that," he said. The standard practice of identifying web pages with keywords and tags that can be read by search engines has been overlooked by the RTA, he said. "If you are a real website programmer and you check this website, trust me, you will hate the codes," Mr Santillan said. The RTA did not respond to requests for comment.
Silvie Dziwisz, the commercial manager of InternetCont, the company running dubaimetro.eu, said it receives dozens of inquiries daily from people assuming it is the official site for one of Dubai's highest-profile infrastructure projects. "They are interested in all information concerning Dubai Metro, about possibilities to get a job," she said. "Other companies contact us and show interest in business opportunities with the Metro."
The site contains information about the Metro and links to stories and videos. It is supported by advertising, provided by Google's online ad service. InternetCont runs a number of websites named after prominent UAE developments, including al-raha-beach.com, dubaifountain.info and nakheelharbour-tower.com, named after the project that is home to one of the 10 Dubai Metro stations that will open next week.
In registering web addresses that are already in use as a brand or trademark, the company is vulnerable to appeals by the owners of the names. In 2008, the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, known as Masdar, won such an appeal against a British man who had registered the website masdarcity.com, and his registration of the address was cancelled. The UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said last week that it would strictly enforce intellectual property laws in relation to the registration of web addresses under the national .ae domain. But the regulator has no authority over sites registered in foreign jurisdictions.