Revisiting Arabic Social Bookmarking And Content Discovery

| Jun 23, 2010 | comment 2 Comments

Social BookmarkingA bit over two years ago, I wrote a post about the Arab social bookmarking services out there, listing the existing options, how good they looked and how well they seemed to be doing, identifying the top ones at that time.

If anyone were to pull up that same list today and go check on each one of the sites, they’d find that some have shut down, others have become useless and spam ridden, some others have become pretty much inactive, and only one or two are still holding on. What’s clear though is that these social bookmarking services never caught on with Arab web users, and never achieved their founders’ initial dreams for them.

However there are some new kids on the block, who are here to take another stab at social bookmarking and facilitating content discovery for users in the Arab world.

MerkabThe first of these services is Merkab, which was launched in March of this year, from Morocco, by the well-known Arab blogger Mohammed Sahli.

Merkab is geared towards helping users discover interesting new content by surfacing the best content that other users have found and submitted to the site, and that other users just like them liked and voted up.

The service combines elements from popular social bookmarking sites Digg and StumbleUpon; mixing Digg’s straightforward interface for listing content and letting users vote on it, with StumbleUpon’s toolbar enabling users to jump from site to site without having to go back to the main Merkab site each time.

Future plans for the service include growing the social aspect of it, allowing users to create a social graph on the site, and building more intelligence into the system to be able to surface content that would be interesting for the user based on their preferences, content they’ve viewed, liked and added to favorites, as well as what their friends on the site liked. That would be a key differentiator from other such services out there.

What the service is currently missing are bookmarklets that users can use to bookmark content directly from their browsers, and buttons that webmasters can integrate into their sites to make bookmarking their pages easier.

ThabbetAnother new service that has just been launched in the same space is a project called Thabbet, that was launched by a company called Exyria Studies that operates out of the UAE, Syria and Canada..

The service of course allows people to post and share content through the site and have other users rate it, pushing it either up or down in importance, and also making it easier for everyone to find the best and most interesting content.

The site also offers the ability for users to comment and create a conversation around each piece of content that is posted to the site, whether it be a link, photo, video, or topic of conversation.

Bookmarklets are offered for users to add to their browser’s link bar and automatically bookmark pages to Thabbet. Webmasters also have the option to integrate Thabbet buttons on their sites so viewers can directly bookmark using them.

Both of these new services are available in Arabic only, and aren’t too far from other social bookmarking sites in terms of concept and design, with Thabbet looking a lot more like digg though.

Merkab + Thabbet

Now the thing is, whipping together a basic social bookmarking site isn’t all that complicated technically speaking, in fact a number of free software options such as pligg exist out there that anyone can setup and get running in a few minutes; the biggest challenge of all is actually building the active community around it to find and share interesting content that will draw users curious to find new content they can enjoy, which in turn will draw webmasters who want to get more traffic going their way, therefore giving the site more exposure and helping its community expand more.

Maybe the older services were too early for their time, maybe they didn’t give as much importance to community building as they should have, or maybe they were just unlucky; however, the fact they weren’t able to crack this nut doesn’t mean someone else won’t succeed at doing so.

It’ll be interesting to see how things go with both these services, or if things pick up with any of the old ones, how they go about growing it and making it relevant and interesting in this time when sharing seems to be moving away from such independent services and more towards general all-encompassing social networks like facebook.

  • Poptropica

    hope this wont be an issue since we all know that there are lots of block sites there.

  • Lenka Henrik

    Thanks for the post. “Thabbet” is great Arabic social bookmarking site.

    Lenka Henrik

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