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Middle East networking site offers forum on social life

Frustration and boredom were the catalysts prompting a young Emirati and his British partner to create a social networking website.

Frustration and boredom were the catalysts prompting a young Emirati and his British partner to create a social networking website they hope will become the premier guide to life in the Emirates.

Yadig (www.yadig.com) was founded by Saif al Zarouni and his tech-savvy partner Johnny Huntingdon, "out of frustration at going to the same places over and over again".

"After a while it just gets boring," said Mr al Zarouni, 28, "so we found a need that had to be filled".

The website, which is free to use, offers a forum where people can search for venues or voice their opinions on them. It officially launched last month, after nine months of development.

"Everybody thinks they're different but we truly believe that adding the social networking to the reviews and all the information we have on our site is pretty neat.

"It's a new niche market for the Middle East. If you want to go out and experience the region, it's very difficult to find where to go, where to stay and what to do based on real people's opinions. The rest of the world has had these sites up for a couple of years, so for me it's a very long-term commitment."

The partners are counting on word of mouth for the expansion of their website.

"The great thing about the UAE is that it's really community-based and word of mouth really spreads fast, which is pretty positive. People trust other people's opinions. That's why I think our site will be really successful, because people's opinions do matter and word of mouth is powerful."

The pair are planning to launch an iPhone application within a couple of weeks, as well as one for the BlackBerry. They also intend to add 20,000 business profiles to the site over the next few months, and expand it to include everything from outdoor activities and golf courses to medical services, hospitals and petrol stations.

"So if you do have an experience and you want to write about it, we have the platform," said Mr al Zarouni.

cmalek@thenational.ae

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