Why I Don’t Trust Arab Online Services

| Jun 2, 2008 | comment 24 Comments
This guest blog is by Qwaider of Memories Documented.

I just can’t get my self to trust the Arab online services for many reasons. They’re emerging, they’re growing, but this one area that I fear that I’m never going to venture to.

And here is why…

Privacy
Privacy is the next big buzzword that you’re going to be hearing about from now on. It will by synonymous with security and is a great concern for great deal of researchers and experts mainly because the world as we see it today. Is going to continue to morph to depend more on alternate methods of identity. With Privacy as it’s cornerstone. Someone who has your information has the ability to steal your identity. Which will be catastrophic in the future. But that’s not all.

Lets face it, for Hotmail, I’m just a figure, no one is going to be interested in what I have in my inbox. But I sadly can’t say the same about Arabic services… That’s just the way it is. All you have to do is cross the wrong people. Who may not even be the decision makers or the admins themselves but they know a friend of a friend of their girlfriend, and now …. they know everything about you.

When I establish an account at Google, Facebook or even my space. I know that my private information is going to continue to be my private information. Someone accessing it illegitimately might be subject to very harsh disciplinary actions, and might do jail time.

I can’t feel the same about my information on ANY Arabic social or online server. So I stay away.

Quality
The Quality of a service that is pumping millions into their online presence is something you can feel. Even though the services grow and prosper. Their quality usually gets better as economies of scale starts kicking in. Sadly, this is not the case for Arabic online services and the results are disappointing.

Accountability
When something goes wrong. I know where to go to normally when dealing with an international company. I deal with a company and not an individual. So I know that even if someone is not there, things will still function. But sadly that’s not the case with Arab online services where accountability is really not that clear, and knowing people is the only way to get things done.

Reliability
International services are monitored world wide not only by the company, but by it’s competitors, media and many other sources that ensures their reliability is always top notch. Even then, issues happen. Sadly, this is not the case for Arab online services. Which are usually financially strapped to allow for detailed disaster recover procedures.

Security
This is the main area where I have severe doubts. Most international companies will have specialized security teams that are tasked with the hardest of all tasks. Security. Sadly, security is barely breaking the service in the Arabic online services and therefore that means that there is a threat on so many levels for anything the customer receives.

Sustainability
Not this is a serious issue. How do I know the company is going to be there 2 months, 3 months, 4 years from now? It’s true that this can’t be guaranteed anywhere, but in the case of international companies people seem to uphold themselves to a higher standards in front of their stakes holders.

Neutrality
As we know in our socially, politically and economically torn part of the world, the neutrality of the company can’t be maintained. One day they might be in one boat, the next day in a completely other boat. There are no guarantees!

Business ethics
Sadly, business (online or otherwise) are run like a person’s personal sock drawer. If he’s happy with someone, he’ll provide exceptional service. If not, well, lets just say you might find yourself on the street! Your account blocked, deleted or exposed. No justification is needed. All you have to do is engage with one of the decision maker in the company, and poof, you’re history.

Geopolitical pressure
Sadly, local authorities will eventually have the upper hand over whoever is dealing with the Arabic online services. The implications of freedom of speech, personal liabilities, and numerous other civil and political considerations will get to you. Where as in international companies that isn’t as bad.

Conclusions…
It will be a long time before the Arabic gain my trust. There needs to be mechanism placed in effect to make sure these contention points are mitigated before they can prosper and take their place among the mega services worldwide.

  • http://nekrif.com Sabeur

    I couldn’t have agreed more … you hit the nail.

  • http://nekrif.com Sabeur

    I couldn’t have agreed more … you hit the nail.

  • Jithin

    soo damn true…

  • Jithin

    soo damn true…

  • http://www.startuparabia.com Mohamed Marwen Meddah

    This article hits the nail straight on the head, listing a number of the issues that Arab startups and entrepreneurs have to seriously think about overcoming for them to succeed and build a solid user base.

    Trust is obviously a big issue when it comes to Arab startups, which is confirmed by the results of the StartUpArabia poll on that question up to now.

  • http://www.subzeroblue.com Mohamed Marwen Meddah

    This article hits the nail straight on the head, listing a number of the issues that Arab startups and entrepreneurs have to seriously think about overcoming for them to succeed and build a solid user base.

    Trust is obviously a big issue when it comes to Arab startups, which is confirmed by the results of the StartUpArabia poll on that question up to now.

  • http://www.mawqey.com Abdulrahman Alotaiba

    I agree with you on every point that you mentioned, but I think the next step is to provide the solutions, I think you’ve made really good points and it was only the first step.

    What you did is answering the question “Why I don’t trust Arab online services” which is very good as a standing point, now we need the answer for “How would Arab online services gain my trust”.

    I think one of the most important factors is financing, in the Arab world, web services don’t get financed the way International services do, and maybe because of the Arab culture as well, I’d really love to see a deeper analysis for the types of users in the Arab world, but when you have only 21.3% of the population use the internet, while in North America it’s 73.1% of the population, you can see clearly the difference in the user base and how there are very good opportunities for investments.

    We have a very long way before we see real investments put in the internet for the Arab world which will very much lead to real, reliable, secure, and well developed web services.

    Note: Figures were taken from internetworldstats.com

  • http://www.mawqey.com Abdulrahman Alotaiba

    I agree with you on every point that you mentioned, but I think the next step is to provide the solutions, I think you’ve made really good points and it was only the first step.

    What you did is answering the question “Why I don’t trust Arab online services” which is very good as a standing point, now we need the answer for “How would Arab online services gain my trust”.

    I think one of the most important factors is financing, in the Arab world, web services don’t get financed the way International services do, and maybe because of the Arab culture as well, I’d really love to see a deeper analysis for the types of users in the Arab world, but when you have only 21.3% of the population use the internet, while in North America it’s 73.1% of the population, you can see clearly the difference in the user base and how there are very good opportunities for investments.

    We have a very long way before we see real investments put in the internet for the Arab world which will very much lead to real, reliable, secure, and well developed web services.

    Note: Figures were taken from internetworldstats.com

  • http://mamod.wordpress.com Mamod

    Well, I kinda disagree with all of you, not that I trust Arab companies, but because what you listed above is not restricted to the Arab world only, they are related to almost all startup, either it’s Arabic or not. and let me go into each point

    Privacy:
    Take facebook for example, the biggest social site, read about how they don’t respect your privacy, do a fast search and you can read thousands of articles about that issue, and believe me google, yahoo, and microsoft are nothing better than facebook.

    Quality:
    This may be the only point I agree with you, but it’s not company’s fault, since the lack of web marketing in the Arab world some companies can’t improve their services because finance lack, but let me go into this point again from another side, being big is not always being the best, for example, 1&1 hosting service is nothing but crap, and I rather to register my domains with namecheap.com “a two guys company” than registering with Yahoo.

    Accountability:
    again take my case with namecheap.com

    Security:
    All online Arabic services are renting an international servers, and if they go with a respectful managed hosting provider they can rely on them for the security issues, so it’s a relative issue.

    Sustainability:
    You answered this, nobody knows, and you can read this in all web service “terms of use” service, recently I lost my wiki data because a well known wiki host closed it’s doors, stikipad.com even though they had a paid service.

    Neutrality
    Well, at least some times it will be in your boat not always in the other boat :)

    Business ethics
    There is no ethics in business, that’s what I’ve learned from the “Big international” companies and once i had an argue with a hosting support and gave me a pain in the *** afterward every time I submitted a ticket

    Geopolitical pressure
    Ha ha ha, it seems that you don’t know why Chinese hate Yahoo and Google, well, at least we know our data will be exposed to government so we can be careful :) Google allowed Chinese government to censor its search results and the same thing with Yahoo and it’s Yahoo messenger

    Conclusions…
    It really doesn’t matter the region you are from, it’s totally related to the guys behind the service, and else you always can register your company in USA while you’re working in middle east :) and have an international company, and believe me if you’re going to fail with an Arabic company you will fail with an international company too.

  • http://mamod.wordpress.com Mamod

    Well, I kinda disagree with all of you, not that I trust Arab companies, but because what you listed above is not restricted to the Arab world only, they are related to almost all startup, either it’s Arabic or not. and let me go into each point

    Privacy:
    Take facebook for example, the biggest social site, read about how they don’t respect your privacy, do a fast search and you can read thousands of articles about that issue, and believe me google, yahoo, and microsoft are nothing better than facebook.

    Quality:
    This may be the only point I agree with you, but it’s not company’s fault, since the lack of web marketing in the Arab world some companies can’t improve their services because finance lack, but let me go into this point again from another side, being big is not always being the best, for example, 1&1 hosting service is nothing but crap, and I rather to register my domains with namecheap.com “a two guys company” than registering with Yahoo.

    Accountability:
    again take my case with namecheap.com

    Security:
    All online Arabic services are renting an international servers, and if they go with a respectful managed hosting provider they can rely on them for the security issues, so it’s a relative issue.

    Sustainability:
    You answered this, nobody knows, and you can read this in all web service “terms of use” service, recently I lost my wiki data because a well known wiki host closed it’s doors, stikipad.com even though they had a paid service.

    Neutrality
    Well, at least some times it will be in your boat not always in the other boat :)

    Business ethics
    There is no ethics in business, that’s what I’ve learned from the “Big international” companies and once i had an argue with a hosting support and gave me a pain in the *** afterward every time I submitted a ticket

    Geopolitical pressure
    Ha ha ha, it seems that you don’t know why Chinese hate Yahoo and Google, well, at least we know our data will be exposed to government so we can be careful :) Google allowed Chinese government to censor its search results and the same thing with Yahoo and it’s Yahoo messenger

    Conclusions…
    It really doesn’t matter the region you are from, it’s totally related to the guys behind the service, and else you always can register your company in USA while you’re working in middle east :) and have an international company, and believe me if you’re going to fail with an Arabic company you will fail with an international company too.

  • http://blog.sweetestmemories.com Qwaider

    Very healthy discussion here. There are plenty of good points.
    Although finances do pause a heavy weight on any business. It’s not always the cause of the issues relating to security and privacy violations. Especially by internal employees.

    Anyway, thank you all for the wonderful exchange. Maybe we can all learn some points to help us in the future.

    Someone asked, the next step should be finding solutions for these issues.
    I think the answer is simple and available. It lies in transparency.
    When a company opens it’s door and it’s archive for external auditing by the public. It will raise thier level of confidence of accountability.
    When decisions are justified by facts and honest reasons many people will know why and how to disagree. Which leads to the most important point, feedback! Which is a treasure mine for every business and a start-up. I’m not saying a company should act on every piece of feedback they’re getting. But it it should all be reviewed, evaluated and decisions made based on it.

  • http://blog.sweetestmemories.com Qwaider

    Very healthy discussion here. There are plenty of good points.
    Although finances do pause a heavy weight on any business. It’s not always the cause of the issues relating to security and privacy violations. Especially by internal employees.

    Anyway, thank you all for the wonderful exchange. Maybe we can all learn some points to help us in the future.

    Someone asked, the next step should be finding solutions for these issues.
    I think the answer is simple and available. It lies in transparency.
    When a company opens it’s door and it’s archive for external auditing by the public. It will raise thier level of confidence of accountability.
    When decisions are justified by facts and honest reasons many people will know why and how to disagree. Which leads to the most important point, feedback! Which is a treasure mine for every business and a start-up. I’m not saying a company should act on every piece of feedback they’re getting. But it it should all be reviewed, evaluated and decisions made based on it.

  • http://www.za3tar.net/ za3tar

    I respectfully disagree with most of your points, and i have written a reply post about this on my blog.

  • http://www.za3tar.net/ za3tar

    I respectfully disagree with most of your points, and i have written a reply post about this on my blog.

  • http://blog.sweetestmemories.com Qwaider

    Thanks Za3tar, I replied on your post.

  • http://blog.sweetestmemories.com Qwaider

    Thanks Za3tar, I replied on your post.

  • http://www.questler.com Razan Khatib

    Thanks Qwaider for your well thought of post. Yet as a founder of one of the Arab-based startups (Questler.com) I disagree with some of your points. I think Mamod gave a great analysis.

    Apart from lack of good financial backing, technically there is nothing separating Arab-based startups from worldwide ones of the same age and size, the more you have finances the more you can spend on all aspects. I don’t share my private data with just any site, they have to be mentioned by someone who met the team anyway and vows for their service. Be it an arab blogger or an international one. Look how many users of twitter for instance are complaining about reliability of the service. Look about all the fuss that was made regarding Facebook Beacon on Privacy, look at this thread where obviously a user disagreed with one of the co-founders of Questler (http://www.questler.com/explore/quest/view/472). I see this no different than people going to buy coffee from Starbucks instead of Cups & Kilos in Amman, people who won’t give their fellow citizens the benefit to grow into a local business that competes with international big brads.

  • http://www.questler.com Razan Khatib

    Thanks Qwaider for your well thought of post. Yet as a founder of one of the Arab-based startups (Questler.com) I disagree with some of your points. I think Mamod gave a great analysis.

    Apart from lack of good financial backing, technically there is nothing separating Arab-based startups from worldwide ones of the same age and size, the more you have finances the more you can spend on all aspects. I don’t share my private data with just any site, they have to be mentioned by someone who met the team anyway and vows for their service. Be it an arab blogger or an international one. Look how many users of twitter for instance are complaining about reliability of the service. Look about all the fuss that was made regarding Facebook Beacon on Privacy, look at this thread where obviously a user disagreed with one of the co-founders of Questler (http://www.questler.com/explore/quest/view/472). I see this no different than people going to buy coffee from Starbucks instead of Cups & Kilos in Amman, people who won’t give their fellow citizens the benefit to grow into a local business that competes with international big brads.

  • http://www.startuparabia.com Mohamed Marwen Meddah

    I agree with many of the points and counter-arguments that are being posted in response to this post. Still I think the post reflects the thoughts of many people, no matter how true or untrue they are.

    I like Razan’s example of Starbucks/Cups & Kilos; which can apply to many other businesses and sectors as well; This is the environment Arab startups are being launched in, it’s not an easy one, and there is a problem of perception and bias towards everything branded and international when it comes to their target audience; but it is a joint effort to overcome all of this and show that Arab startups are every bit as trustworthy as international ones, and that they can provide the added-value that should get people to choose them instead of some other counterpart.

    As Razan’s example was from Jordan, I’ll pick an example from the same country: Chili House, I think is an example of a business that was able to create a place for it right next to McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and the other big brands.

    I think it’s all about showing professionalism, quality, organization, openness, and building trust within the community.

  • http://www.subzeroblue.com Mohamed Marwen Meddah

    I agree with many of the points and counter-arguments that are being posted in response to this post. Still I think the post reflects the thoughts of many people, no matter how true or untrue they are.

    I like Razan’s example of Starbucks/Cups & Kilos; which can apply to many other businesses and sectors as well; This is the environment Arab startups are being launched in, it’s not an easy one, and there is a problem of perception and bias towards everything branded and international when it comes to their target audience; but it is a joint effort to overcome all of this and show that Arab startups are every bit as trustworthy as international ones, and that they can provide the added-value that should get people to choose them instead of some other counterpart.

    As Razan’s example was from Jordan, I’ll pick an example from the same country: Chili House, I think is an example of a business that was able to create a place for it right next to McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and the other big brands.

    I think it’s all about showing professionalism, quality, organization, openness, and building trust within the community.

  • http://blog.sweetestmemories.com Qwaider

    Thank you all for your arguments in support and against.

    What I have stated are some of the fears and concerns of users of the services and some of the hard questions that every service provider needs to face, and answer in an objective and very honest way. The more we establish our professionalism and follow a strict customer facing policy coupled with transparency in operation we would be on our way to establish world class service. A must in the day and age where mega services are being tailor made to overtake every market out there.

  • http://blog.sweetestmemories.com Qwaider

    Thank you all for your arguments in support and against.

    What I have stated are some of the fears and concerns of users of the services and some of the hard questions that every service provider needs to face, and answer in an objective and very honest way. The more we establish our professionalism and follow a strict customer facing policy coupled with transparency in operation we would be on our way to establish world class service. A must in the day and age where mega services are being tailor made to overtake every market out there.

  • Pingback: Is trust an issue when it comes to Arab startups? [Poll Results] - StartUpArabia

  • Pingback: The Up-and-Coming Arabic Web « ⅓ Poet. ⅓ Geek. ⅓ Egyptian.

Sign up for StartUpArabia news sent to your inbox:
 
Subscribe: Feed