By Shane McGinley
The newly merged company is eyeing 80 million Arab users by the end of 2011.
Maktoob from Yahoo! aims to double its number of Arab users over the next two years, the company said at the official launch in Dubai this weekend.
The acquisition of the Maktoob.com by Yahoo!, the California-based US internet giant, was completed over a week ago, said Ahmed Nassef, the general manager of the newly merged entity.
At present, 22 million Arab users a month use Yahoo!, while 18 million a month use Maktoob.com. Nassef said the company aims to double this over the next two years.
The deal to acquire Maktoob.com has been valued at around $175 million , the state-run Amman-based Petra news agency has reported.
“We are very excited about this opportunity,” Jerry Yang, the co-founder and former CEO of Yahoo! said in Dubai at the official reception to launch the acquisition.
“We believe Yahoo is in a position to create the kind of experiences on the internet that will be great for Arabic users but at the same time creating a business model that is necessary to grow and support a vibrant online business,” Yang added.
While in the Middle East, Yang also met with Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, and King Abdullah II Bin Al Hussein of Jordan.
Maktoob.com was founded in 2000 by Samih Toukan and Hussam Khoury as the world’s first free Arabic/English web-based email service.
While internet usage in the Middle East has grown more than tenfold since 2000, most markets are still in the early stages of adoption.
According to the World Bank there are more than 320 million Arabic speaking internet users worldwide, while less than one per cent of all online content is in Arabic.