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Arabic Social Startup Stays Local


In Arab culture, a diwan is a traditional ruling council, a social watering hole, and a political forum. A website called (pronounced "diwanji") aims to replicate this institution online.

Launched in 2007, is a platform for sharing videos, photos, audio, a forum, and a Q&A facility. Users can create new diwans around any subject. While less successful in the region than the U.S. giants Facebook and Twitter, the site is one of the Arab world's fastest-growing social-media and content-sharing websites, with more than 13 million users, 4.8 million unique monthly visitors, and 15 million videos. The company streams more Arabic videos than anyone else—600 terabytes of data per month. Many attribute the site's success to its adherence to local customs.

"People are crying out for quality Arabic content," says Marwan S. Juma, Jordan's former minister of information, communications, and technology. "There is clearly a niche there, a huge opportunity. It's not only the content, it's the culturalization. How can you make your content relevant to a regional audience? It's not a question of taking something in English and translating it."

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