Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 19:02 pm (KSA) 16:02 pm (GMT)

Facebook launches in Arabic and Hebrew

The new look Arabic Facebook homepage
The new look Arabic Facebook homepage

The hugely popular social-networking website Facebook officially launched Wednesday in Arabic and Hebrew as part of its ambitions to connect people in every language.

The U.S.-based internet sensation already boasts more than 175 million members world-wide and hopes to swell that number by targeting an estimated 250 million Arabic speakers in the Middle East and beyond.

Ghassan Haddad, Facebook director of localization said the site is part of Facebook's ambitions to create versions of the site in every language in the world. "This is the first time Arabic speakers can use the site in their own language and this has huge potential," told BBC News.

 This is the first time Arabic speakers can use the site in their own language and this has huge potential 
Ghassan Haddad

A fluent Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew speaker, Haddad says creating Arabic and Hebrew versions of the site was tricky. "Supporting different languages on the Web entails many technical, cultural and linguistic issues, but right-to-left languages present extra challenges."

Initial reaction to the site has been mixed with some users finding the transition from English to Arabic difficult. "I've developed online habits. I'm used to navigating Facebook in English and from left-to-right. I've just looked at the new Arabic site and I don't really like it," the website quoted Marwa, a London-based Iraqi journalist, as saying.

Facebook currently has 900,000 members in Egypt, 300,000 in Lebanon and 250,000 in Saudi Arabia. However, Arabic-language sites currently only account for five per cent of global web content despite an estimated fifty million of the world's 250 million Arabic speakers already using the internet regularly.

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