It took 30 years for 2 billion people to come online, but 1 billion more will come online in the next 4 years, according to Smartling's overview of the multilingual web. The Arab World will be at the forefront of that expansion, if Arabic content on the web continues to grow at its current rate.
The Middle East accounts for 3.3% of the web's users, and 3% of language use online- not a large percentage. But use of Arabic on the web has increased 2500% since 2000. The Arabic content gap is a thing of the past; while gaps in relevant, localized content remain, Arabic use on the web is proportional to the population, and on the rise.
Twitter is a particularly fast-growing domain. As The Next Web reported, Arabic use on Twitter grew at a rate of 2147% between October 2010 and 2011, galvanized by the uprisings and revolutions in the region, according to a study by Semiocast. While Arabic still only accounts for 1% of total tweets, it's in the top ten languages used on Twitter.
The numbers will continue to multiply now that Twitter has released new right-to-left language capability this March (previously available on Twitter clients), thanks to 13,000 volunteers, including a Saudi blogger, Egyptian college students, a journalist at the BBC, the co-founders of the grassroots #LetsTweetInArabic campaign, academics specializing in linguistics, and teenagers in Lebanon.
The amount of relevant Arabic content on the web will also get a boost this year from Wikipedia's new reach into the region, in partnership with Cairo University, in which students will begin translating and creating original Arabic online encyclopedia pages (More on this soon from our interview at Arabnet with Barry Newstead, Chief Global Development Officer at the Wikimedia Foundation).
As the sheer amount of Arabic content increases, online and mobile advertisers- especially in Arabic- will have more space to sell to. 90% of polled users in Saudi Arabia prefer Arabic ads on their smartphones, according to a study by Plus7 that MediaME and The Next Web recently reported on. With around one-third of e-commerce customers in the UAE, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are comfortable with mobile purchasing, opportunities in the mobile ad space (or Arabic mobile e-commerce space) in the region are hardly tapped out.
Browse Smartling's infographic below (click for the large version) for a glimpse of how Arabic stacks up on the global web, and head to their website for the full, interactive HTML 5 version.