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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Arab-Centric Internet Portal to Be Launched This Year

Arab-Centric Internet Portal to Be Launched This Year
Javid Hassan, Arab News
Via Virtually Islamic

RIYADH, 28 April 2006 — The first Arab-centric Internet search engine will be launched this year to meet the needs of the Internet users in their own language.

“We will launch Sawafi (meaning “sandstorm”) this year,” said Hermann Havermann, managing director of the new Seekport Internet Technologies Arabia, at a contract signing ceremony at Gitex, which concluded at the Riyadh Exhibition Center yesterday.

This joint venture, with the Saudi Arabian MITSCO Group, will be based in Dubai and will address in particular the challenges of the Arabic language and culture and will challenge Google, which provides an Arabic-language version of its popular search engine. The other partner is the German Internet search specialist Seekport Internet Technologies GmbH, based in Martinsried near Munich.

Seekport is to provide the baseline technology, which will be expanded with the support of the local partners to meet the specific needs of the Arabic language. The search engine index will cover the full array of all Arabic-language websites, in conjunction with English- and French-language content from Arab countries.

An important factor will be the adaptation of search to the specific needs of the Arabic user while addressing the numerous peculiarities and dialect variations of the Arabic language.

“We have found an ideal partner in Seekport. They not only have innovative technology, but also profound understanding of the local conditions of the Arabic language and culture area”, explains Saudi woman entrepreneur Nouf Al- Rakan, the chief executive officer of MITSCO, an acronym for Mobile Interactive Technology Solutions, a leading provider of innovative technology solutions based in Riyadh.

“Together, we will establish the leading Internet search engine for the Arab market and a whole new Internet experience will be offered for future users of the new technology,” she said.

The Arabic Internet search market is currently one of the most dynamic and least exploited worldwide, with an estimated 24 million users in 2005 — and as many as 43 million users expected by 2008.

Estimates put the total number of Arabic-language websites at around 100 million at present, doubling every year — a very small proportion of the total worldwide Internet content of more than 12 billion sites.

One of the reasons for this relatively smaller number of Arabic websites compared to those at the international level is the fact that the requirements of Internet search engines in terms of the Arabic language are very high.

Current search algorithms in the usual Internet search engines are hardly capable of observing even the simplest morphological conditions required to process Arabic-language contents in a meaningful way for users. That is why search engines have so far been underutilized in Arabic, the spokesman said.

Seekport Internet Technologies is an innovative European Internet search engine provider.

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