Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

YouTube Moves to Play Bigger Role in Middle East With Seven Local Versions

YouTube today launched versions of its site for seven countries in the Middle East, a step that could add to the site’s local importance during the region’s ongoing turbulent political times by better surfacing timely citizen videos.

The new local versions are for Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Yemen. There isn’t one for Libya, where YouTube has been blocked since January.

YouTube already offers an Arabic version and hosts lots of content from users in the Middle East, including news networks Al Arabia and Al Jazeera. And the site is mostly available to Internet users in the region, though it has been blocked by ISPs in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya at the request of local governments both as a domain and as part of general Internet shutoffs over the last few months.

The most important aspects of the local versions of YouTube are dedicated home pages that show the most popular and trending videos in each country. This makes local videos much easier to find, especially because some of the most interesting videos on YouTube come from people who were previously unknown.

Previously, would-be viewers might have had to do extensive searching on YouTube or rely on Facebook, Twitter and news outlets to find important new video posts from these countries.

To whatever extent citizens watch and share local videos, the Middle East pages could mean that YouTube is a bigger touchpoint for on-the-street accounts from protests and other timely content. It should also make it easier for the rest of the world to find such videos.

YouTube seems to be playing down the political implication of the Middle East pages, though it seems obvious given the timing. In an announcement written in Arabic on the Google Arabia Blog (and not yet cross-posted on YouTube’s main blog or its news and politics blog), the company highlighted Jordanian cartoonist DinaKaradsheh, popular Lebanese musician Nancy Ajram and professional news networks–rather than calling out the opportunities to more easily find citizen video.

The post, written by Associate Product Marketing Manager Najeeb Jarrar, ended with a sort of plea to keep the Middle East discourse open:

Of course, the YouTube community reflects the whole world, with its vast differences of ethnicity, religion, nationality, language, politics and more. Not everything on YouTube will please everyone, and we encourage people to actively participate, learn the rules and flag content that might violate them. In the end, YouTube is a place where people go to exchange all kinds of ideas, and we hope you will join the conversation.

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