Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- On the last day of 2010, the social networking and microblogging website ‘Twitter’ revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the number of its Saudi users had increased by 240 percent, since the beginning of 2010. The website also announced that the total number of worldwide users has now reached 175 million.
Twitter estimates that the rate of increase in the daily circulation of so-called ‘Tweets’, specifically messages shared by users in Saudi Arabia, has reached 440 percent, whilst pointing out that the global average is at a 95 percent increase.
Asharq Al-Awsat obtained these figures through an email correspondence with Twitter, however the website apologized for only being able to provide the information in percentage format, saying “we do not disclose figures for specific countries”.
This information comes at a time when registration to social networking websites has become widespread amongst Saudis concerned with local and international issues, news, and comments in general.
Regarding Saudi Arabia’s embrace of social networking sites, 22 year-old Saudi Blogger Fahd al-Hamzi told Asharq Al-Awsat that, ” the Jeddah floods, which occurred late last year , opened the doors for users to interact, and prompted widespread registration [to social networking sites].
Al-Hamzi who maintains and runs his own weblog believes that the primary concern for Twitter users in Saudi Arabia is to bring some legal issues to public attention. He highlighted the issue of a girl who was having problems with her abusive father, which gained the attention of many Twitter users. As a result, the media persevered in dealing with the issue, until it moved into the corridors of the courts.
Al-Hamzi suggested that many young men and women in Saudi Arabia have taken to social networking websites as a means of ‘letting off steam’, sharing feelings and opinions, counseling, as well as reviewing news stories. He added “let’s not forget the satirical criticism favored by Saudis, in their comments on noteworthy news stories”.
Moreover, the MBC Group’s Director of New Media, Dr Ammar Bakkar believes the Saudis use of social networking sites will only increase in future. Dr Bakkar told Asharq Al-Awsat,” It is expected that social networking websites will become more widespread, and will become an important source of news for people during the next few years”.
Created in 2006 to exchange messages of no more than 140 characters, Twitter had 175 million registered users as of November 1, and transmitted 25 billion “tweets” last year. About 95 million messages a day are sent over the site.
It has pursued rapid growth over profits, but since last spring, it has brought in advertising revenues through paid for “promoted tweets.”
Twitter shot to fame in the Middle East in 2009 during Iran’s Velvet Revolution, where Iranians bypassed traditional media and a heavily censored internet by using the microblogging website in order for their news to reach various media outlets around the world.