Social media usage in the Middle East

Updated 29 February 2016
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Social media usage in the Middle East

Damian Radcliffe, a journalism professor at the University of Oregon, issued his fourth annual report titled “The story of 2015” discussing the social media in the Middle East.

As expected, the region is scoring high penetration rates in social media. According to the report, there are more than 41 million active users in the region. Needless to say, the young, tech-savvy generation available in the region is the main reason driving these high rates of social media consumption.
Although the whole region is witnessing a boom in the new media usage, there are still some differences in the platforms’ preferences and usage across the Middle East, especially between the Gulf countries and North Africa.
For instance, the leading platform in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, and Lebanon is none other than the messaging service WhatsApp.
In percentage, WhatsApp is used by more than 94 percent of the social media active users in the Kingdom, while used by virtually all those active on social media in the UAE. In general, 41 percent of the social media users in the region are using WhatsApp.
However, the platform that is leading the race in the region as a whole is Facebook. Egypt constitutes the largest fan-base of the platform at 27 million active users, while there are 12 million users in Saudi Arabia, and 11 million in Iraq. In the region as a whole, 87 percent of the social media active users have a presence on Facebook, with 84 percent of them accessing the platform from their mobile devices, and 89 percent of them on a daily basis.
When it comes to Twitter, Saudi Arabia and UAE are on top with 53 percent and 51 percent active users in these countries, respectively, using the platform. The lowest usage across the region comes in Libya and Syria, with 12 percent and 14 percent respectively. Interestingly, the study states that 45 percent of those using Twitter age between 18 and 24, while 25 percent only of them are aged 45 or above. However, it is good to notice that Saudi Arabia is having the largest number of users of the platform, it is scoring low in daily usage, which could hint that Saudis are moving away from the platform toward its competitors like Instagram and Snapchat.
Snapchat has recorded the highest annual growth, jumping from 3 percent to 12 percent in the region. The live stories the platform features on Makkah, Riyadh and Dubai secured its popularity in the region and turned it into a new platform of choice for many social media influencers.
The rest of the report discusses the behavior of the region’s consumers in the field of entrainment and news consumption, shedding more light and emphasizing on the fact that social media platforms became a very important and sometimes sensitive areas of interest in any attempt to analyze and understand the region.


WWWorries? Inventor of Web laments coming-of-age woes

Updated 12 March 2019
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WWWorries? Inventor of Web laments coming-of-age woes

  • Tim Berners-Lee was working at CERN as a software engineer when he invented the hypertext-transfer protocol
  • He hopes countries can make the web available to more citizens

GENEVA: The inventor of the World Wide Web knows his revolutionary innovation is coming of age, and doesn’t always like what he sees: state-sponsored hacking, online harassment, hate speech and misinformation among the ills of its “digital adolescence.”
Tim Berners-Lee issued a cri-de-coeur letter and spoke to a few reporters Monday on the eve of the 30-year anniversary of his first paper with an outline of what would become the web — a first step toward transforming countless lives and the global economy.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, plans to host Berners-Lee and other web aficionados on Tuesday. “We’re celebrating, but we’re also very concerned,” Berners-Lee said.
Late last year, a key threshold was crossed — roughly half the world has gotten online. Today some 2 billion websites exist.
The anniversary offers “an opportunity to reflect on how far we have yet to go,” Berners-Lee said, calling the “fight” for the web “one of the most important causes of our time.”
He is convinced the online population will continue to grow, but says accessibility issues continue to beset much of the world.
“Look at the 50 percent who are on the web, and it’s not so pretty for them,” he said. “They are all stepping back suddenly horrified after the Trump and Brexit elections realizing that this web thing that they thought was so cool has actually not necessarily been serving humanity very well.”
The anniversary is also a nod to the innovative, collaborative and open-source mindset at the Geneva-based CERN, where physicists smash particles together to unlock secrets of science and the universe.
As a young English software engineer, Berners-Lee came up with the idea for hypertext-transfer protocol — the “http” that adorns web addresses — and other building blocks for the web while working at CERN in March 1989. Some trace the actual start of the web to 1990, when he released the first web browser.
Berners-Lee reminisced about how he was really out to get disparate computer systems to talk to one another, and resolve the “burning frustration” over a “lack of interoperability” of documentation from disparate computing systems used at CERN in the late 1980s.
Now, the hope of his World Wide Web Foundation is to enlist governments, companies, and citizens to take a greater role in shaping the web for good under principles laid out in its “Contract for the Web.”
Under the contract’s sweeping, broad ambition, governments are supposed to make sure everyone can connect to the Internet, to keep it available and to respect privacy. Companies are to make the Internet affordable, respect privacy and develop technology that will put people — and the “public good” — first. Citizens are to create and to cooperate and respect “civil discourse,” among other things.
To Berners-Lee, the web is a “mirror of humanity” where “you will see good and bad.”
“The Contract for the Web recognizes that whether humanity, in fact, is constructive or not actually depends on the way you write the code of the social network,” he said.
Some tough regulation may be necessary in some places, in others not, Berners-Lee said.
On one issue, he’s insistent: “Net neutrality — strong regulation,” Berners-Lee said, hammering a fist on the table. He was alluding to a principle that anyone with an Internet connection should have equal access to video, music, email, photos, social networks, maps and other online material.
Berners-Lee said the web has created opportunity, made lives easier and given the marginalized a voice, but “it has also created opportunity for scammers, given a voice to those who spread hatred, and made all kinds of crime easier to commit.”
Ultimately, his “Contract” proposal is not about “quick fixes,” but a process for shifting people’s relationship with the online world, he said.
“It’s our journey from digital adolescence to a more mature, responsible and inclusive future,” he wrote.