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Yahoo Absorbs Arabic Portal, Cuts Mideast Access To U.S. Homepage

Yahoo just unveiled major redesigns and functionality changes for Arabic-language portal Yahoo! Maktoob that will funnel traffic away from yahoo.com.

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Yahoo’s Arabic-language portal, Yahoo!
Maktoob
, launched a major redesign over the past two weeks. It’s Yahoo’s integration of a formerly independent web portal with a
dedicated audience of its own.

The new design skews much more closely
to the layout of Yahoo’s other international portals (see picture
above). It also includes some clever redirects that will make it
difficult for casual users to use yahoo.com instead of Yahoo!
Maktoob’s Arabic- or English-language services.

Users in
Arabic-speaking countries outside of the United Arab Emirates who
attempt to visit yahoo.com will automatically be redirected to Yahoo!
Maktoob. Users inside the United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai
and Abu Dhabi, will be given a choice of setting their cookies to
either Yahoo or Yahoo! Maktoob. Accessing yahoo.com in the
Arabic-speaking Middle East will now require users to click on a
small text link on the Yahoo! Maktoob homepage.

Yahoo! Maktoob’s new homepage adds a weather and prayer times widget, and offers users customizable
content functionality similar to Yahoo’s American and European
homepages.

The redesign brings Maktoob, which
was acquired by Yahoo in 2009
, much closer in line with the
firm’s other international sites. Maktoob, with 32 million users, is
the most popular web portal in the Arab-speaking Middle East thanks
to native pre-2009 email, auction, cash transfer, search engine and
gaming sites.

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According to Ahmed Nassef, vice
president and managing director of Yahoo Middle East: “The new
homepage is an opportunity for online users to have all their content
personalized, tailor-made and adjusted to suit each individual’s
preferences. For example, if someone is an avid football fan and
regularly reads about football within the Yahoo! Maktoob News and
Sports section, the homepage will recognize these habits and will
display the latest football relevant news the next time this person
visits.”

Functionality was also tweaked on
several sub-portals on Maktoob. Womens’-interest channel Helwa
received a redesign, as did
youth channel Under20 and couples’ channel arb3.

Subsuming Maktoob’s brand
identity in the embrace of Sunnyvale makes simple economic
sense. While Yahoo Maktoob may be the Middle East’s most popular
portal, Google remains the region’s search engine of choice. Yahoo would do well to get its brand out there more.

Some
international Yahoo holdings, such as Taiwanese social networking site
Wretch maintain a separate brand
identity. This move confirms that Yahoo Maktoob
is intended to simply be Yahoo’s Arabic-language portal rather than
an Arabic portal owned by Yahoo.

 

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