x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Twitter looks for louder presence in Arab world

Twitter is looking to partner with regional mobile operators to help provide access to the popular microblogging service through mobile short codes during events when the internet goes offline.

BARCELONA // Twitter is in talks with regional telecommunications operators to boost its adoption across the Arab world, the company's chief executive said.

Twitter has also launched a new translation service where it will let its users help translate the website into different languages, a tool that could potentially help the service provide Arabic support, said Dick Costolo, the chief executive of Twitter.

Mr Costolo said that the company is looking for ways to help provide access to Twitter during events when the internet goes offline such as the recent protests in Egypt.

"We're a 300-person company and we don't really have the resources that a company with 10,000 or 20,000 employees might have globally," Mr Costolo said.

"So when we're blocked, we try to leverage our own platform to plea for help but we are working with carriers and regional [original equipment manufacturers] to try to make things like short codes available to allow people to tweet more freely."


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During the protests in Egypt over the past few weeks, Twitter was used to help inform Egyptians what was happening when traditional forms of communication was unavailable.

When people could not access Twitter, Google introduced a service called "Speak2Tweet" that let users place voice messages that would be later translated and manually relayed into a tweet.

"We were blocked in Egypt for a while, just like we're blocked in China. But people live in the desert because they know how to find a way to water," Mr Costolo said.

"Just like those people, where Twitter is blocked, it doesn't prevent them from using it completely, you just challenge them to find a different way of using it ... People will always find a way to communicate"

Last year, Biz Stone, one of the founders of Twitter, told The National that the website was looking to provide Arabic support later this year.

Mr Costolo said that there Twitter does not support right-to-left languages and it is something that the company is working on.


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Since its launch, Twitter has become one of the world's most popular online services, with about 190 million registered accounts. It is on track to double its user base by the end of this year, with more than 370,000 people signing up each day.

Mr Costolo told the audience that Twitter's latest traffic record was set on last New Year's Eve in Japan, when it handled more than 6,000 tweets per second. During last week's Super Bowl, traffic on the website averaged at 3,000 tweets per second. He said that the company's goal over the next year is to make Twitter like indoor plumbing - simpler, more instantly and always present.

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, Korean, Spanish and Japanese, as well as English.