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Determining the top sites visited by Arabs

The debate rages on regarding the websites with the highest numbers of Arab visitors.

It is, obviously, very difficult to determine the top online destinations of Arab users without someone performing a comprehensive study utilizing scientific sampling techniques. Since no one, to the best of my knowledge, has embarked on such a study, our only indicators on this matter come from conflicting reports and announcements.

To form a general picture on this matter, we can look at some of these indicators, and fuse some fragmented bits of information together.

For a start, there are the figures dished out by Arabic or Arab-based websites, such as Arabia, Maktoob, Ajeeb and others.

The problem with these figures is that it’s unclear how many of the visitors are Arabs, and how many of those Arabs reside in Arab countries.
From past experience, a big ‘chunck’ of Arabic speaking users have come from abroad. In fact, for a while in the late 90s, nearly half of Arabia.com’s page views came from Europe and North America!

Today, though, with the exponential growth in the number of Internet users in Arab countries, these figures look very different. Ajeeb.com claims to have over 62 million page views every month, according to the ITP Web Index, which shows the next closest rivals to be PlanetArabia.com, at 19 million impressions and AmeInfo.com at 12 million impressions a month.

Arabia.com is not on the index, but the company once peaked at around 70 million, but is widely thought to have around 50 million pages views nowadays.

Maktoob.com claims to now have some 70 million page views a month, mainly generated by its email users whom are, mostly, clustered in Arab countries. Maktoob claims that it is the top destination for Arabs, because it’s got the biggest number of e-mail accounts coupled with the largest page-view count, for an Arab-based site. That’s where the facts get somewhat tangled. Maktoob’s claim to be the ‘most popular Arab site could be true’, but Arabs also go to non-Arab sites and in greater numbers. Not even Maktoob could argue with the notion that Hotmail, definitely, has more Arab users signed-up. So, the top ‘international’ e-mail services site visited by Arabs is Hotmail.

To add more confusion, MSN set-up an Arabic branch for it’s operations, called MSN Arabia which now claims to be the ‘most visited Arabic network’, by aggregating all the page views generated on MSN and Hotmail by users in Arab countries. Adding Arabic content and features, MSN Arabia claims, now, to be an Arab site!

Throwing its hat into this ‘mess’ are the search engines like Google and Yahoo. According to a study by ITP, 65 percent of web searches conducted by users in the Middle East go through Google. If such a figure can be generalized, it would mean that Google generates over a 100 million pages a month, at least, from Arab users!

That would make it a top, site accessed by Arabs. So, from the example of the Google and MSN facts, it’s quite obvious that ‘global’ sites get most of the Arab traffic on the web. It’s perfectly normal, as this is the situation in all other parts of the world. Anyone, anywhere is probably a Google or MSN user! Here’s another ‘general assumption’: Since the frequency of web searches conducted by the average computer user cannot compare to the frequency of checking mail; we could say, probably, that MSN Hotmail is the most visited site by Arabs from our region. That seems like a logical conclusion. Maybe it won’t please Arab-owned websites, but until someone does a scientific study, we’ll have to use such educated-guesswork.

Amman 28-04-2003
Zeid Nasser
The Star

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