Maktoob claims search engine is global Arabic first

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By  Published  September 29, 2006

Maktoob Group has launched what it claims is the world’s first Arabic search engine, and predicts it will attract a million users every month by the end of this year.

The UAE-based firm, which is behind Souq.com and the Arab portal Matoob.com, claimed its latest venture — Araby.com — was used by 25,000 web surfers in the first three days of its launch earlier this month.

It has high hopes for the site which it has dubbed “Google for the Arab world” and which will eventually include lucrative text-based advertising.

Samih Toukan, CEO of the Maktoob Group, said the company was keen to develop the search engine as quickly as possible as it believed competitors were planning similar launches.

“The project was started around seven or eight months ago. It usually takes more than that, but we put a big team on it and worked intensively because we had heard there were competitors coming.”

“In general we thought there was an opportunity in the Arab world — it doesn’t make sense that there is no Arabic search engine, there is one in Russia, there is one in China.”

“We knew somebody would do it and we wanted to be the first really that introduced Arabic search on the net,” he added.

The site is currently available in a beta format so that improvements can be made in response to customer feedback.

“We’ve trawled tens of millions of documents but we still have some way to go.”

“In a month and a half the newer version will be there. It won’t look different but the results will be much better, the coverage will be better and the technology will be enhanced,” Toukan claimed.

The firm spent “millions of dollars” developing the product and used its own homegrown technology as well as image searching technology from Swedish company Picsearch and back-end enterprise search technology from Norwegian firm Fast.

Araby.com will be hosted by several firms in the UK and the US and will be powered initially by 50 servers.

Toukan said that one of the most unique features of the site is that users can search for results within specific categories, such as news, Islamic, blog or discussion forum categories.

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