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APIs in the Arab Web

Technology blogger Mohamed Marwen Meddah wrote an interesting post on his StartUpArabia site: “The Importance of Having An API for Arab Startups”. Mohamed notes that, thus far, relatively few Arab online startups have opened up their platforms through APIs. However, he believes that providing an API is crucial for Arab online services:

Arab startups don’t have as much access to funding as their US or international counterparts, meaning that they have less flexibility and ability to grow their service into a central point that can be everything for everyone…

The limited funding for Arab startups makes it more critical that the startups provide an interface so that other services can:

plug in and communicate with it, in a way that we end up with a group of online applications that compliment each other and work together successfully.

One of the greatest challenges for Arab online services is language. Mohamed points to Yamli, which lets you search the Arabic web using English letters and keyboards, as an example of a web service that is providing added value for users, especially other Arab web sites. Yamli has recently opened up their linguistic service through the creation of their API (see our Yamli API profile for technical details).

With the Yamli API, any web site can enable users to fill out web forms using Latin characters, and the Yamli API will immediately translate the phonetic sound into Arabic characters. The form, then, is submitted in Arabic, even though the user typed the words as they sound in English (or French) using the Latin alphabet.

Yamli won the “Best Web Technology” award at the 2008 Pan Arab Web Awards. At the awards ceremony Yamli co-founder Habib Haddad said:

Today, the Arabic language represents less than 0.5% of the content on the Internet! Our mission at Yamli is to empower the Arabic language on the web…

And Mohamed Marwen Meddah points out: when APIs like Yamli succeed “In the end it’s a win-win situation for both the providing service and the consuming one.”

 

Related ProgrammableWeb Resources

Yamli API Profile and Mashups


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