Twitter’s hundreds of thousands of users in the Arab world will have to wait a little longer.
Proving that resolutions are tough even for companies to keep, Twitter is promising to launch an Arabic-language version of its service soon—a promise it made just over a year ago, too.
“We hear you,” Twitter’s top international executive, Katie Stanton, recently told prominent Egyptian Internet activist Wael Ghonim, citing supportarabic.com, which is petitioning Twitter to add support for the language.
After I quizzed Stanton about her message, a Twitter product manager, Thomas Arend, replied that Arabic was “a top priority.”
Arabic was supposed to be the sixth language for Twitter, according to cofounder Biz Stone, who announced plans for Arabic support in late 2010. But even as the Twitter-fueled Arab Spring swept through the Middle East and North Africa, Twitter’s fast-growing Arabic community was left having to use third-party tools to translate the site. (Stone quit his management role at Twitter last summer.)
Instead, Twitter has launched a number of far less widely spoken European languages.
A recent report estimated that as of September, Twitter had 650,000 Arab-speaking users generating 1.23 million tweets a day.
According to Arend, the challenge has been redesigning its user interface for languages like Arabic that are read right to left.
Laura Gómez, a Twitter employee who works on internationalization projects, added that right-to-left support would also allow Twitter to translate its site into Urdu, Farsi, and Hebrew.
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