European search engine Seekport is to launch this year the Internet search engine “Sawafi” (the word means “sandstorm”), specially designed to meet the challenges of the Arabic language, together with the Saudi Arabian partner, MITSCO Group. The joint venture, Seekport Internet Technologies Arabia FZ-LLC, will be based in Dubai.
The Arabic Internet search market is currently one of the most dynamic and least exploited worldwide, with an estimated 24 million users in 2005 - and as many as 43 million users expected by 2008. The contracts for the joint venture were signed at the GITEX IT trade show in Riyadh on 23 April 2006, in the presence of Seekport and officials from MITSCO which is a leading provider of innovative technology solutions based in Riyadh.
“We will launch Sawafi this year. It will be the first search engine optimized for the Arabic language, said Hermann Havermann, managing director of the new Seekport Internet Technologies Arabia, at the contract signing ceremony in Riyadh. “This joint venture is pioneering work, because it is the first Internet search engine to take up seriously the challenges of the Arabic language and culture.”
The European Internet search specialist Seekport, one of the partner companies in the joint venture, is to provide the baseline technology, which will be expanded with the support of the local partners to meet the specific needs of the Arabic language. The search engine index is to provide a complete range of all Arabic language websites, in combination with English and French language contents from Arab countries. An important factor will be the adaptation of search to the specific needs of the Arabic user while addressing the numerous peculiarities and dialect variations of the Arabic language.
“We have found an ideal partner in Seekport - they not only have innovative technology, but also profound understanding of the local conditions of the Arabic language and culture area”, explains MITSCO. “Together, we will establish the leading Internet search engine for the Arab market and a whole new Internet experience will be offered for future users of the new technology.”
The ten most popular websites in the Arabic region account for between 16 and 70 million page-impressions. Estimates put the total number of Arabic language websites at around 100 million at the present time, doubling every year - which is only a very small proportion of the total worldwide Internet content of more than 12 billion sites. Most websites in Arabic language cannot be found by search engines. One of the reasons for this is the very high requirements that the Arabic language makes for Internet search engines. Current search algorithms in the usual Internet search engines are hardly capable of observing even the simplest morphological conditions required to process Arabic-language contents in a meaningful way for users. That is why search engines have so far been under-used in Arabic.