This morning Yahoo announced that it was acquiring Maktoob.com, “the leading online community in the Arab world.” According to Yahoo the site has an audience of 16.5 million people. The purchase price has been estimated at between $75 and $100 million and was apparently in the works before the search deal with Microsoft was announced last month. Yahoo said the acquisition is part of a larger strategy to grow its audience in emerging markets and become the “destination of choice” in those locations.
Yahoo described its Maktoob rollout strategy in in a blog post:
Initially, we’ll plan to introduce Arabic versions of Yahoo! Mail, Messenger, Search, and our homepage and then eventually local versions of properties like News, Sports, and Finance. We’ll also focus on creating content and services tailored to the region. No other global company has made this kind of investment in local relevance for the Arab world.
Unless I’m mistaken regarding the scope of the MicroHoo search deal it appears that Microsoft, without spending a dime, gets to piggyback onto the search aspect of the Maktoob acquisition. Accordingly Bing gets the potential reach that the deal provides in the Arab world.
Google has sites for most arabic-speaking countries. The following is a chart (via AdAge) that reflects Google’s market share in a selected group of markets outside the US. It’s dominant in Turkey, the one muslim-world country reflected on the chart:
PaidContent raises the potential issue of media and speech censorship in the Arab world and likens it to China and the problems and criticism that Yahoo has encountered from its cooperation in Chinese government crackdowns.