Yahoo! launches Arabic transliteration service

Yahoo! has acquired a licence to Yamli’s transliteration technology, to be integrated across a number of its products and services, the Internet giant announced on Monday.

The technology enables users who type Arabic using Latin text, to translate their intended message into Arabic.

This comes as part of Yahoo!’s focus on developing solutions tailored for the Middle East and North Africa region, and will allow Yahoo! Maktoob to further develop the technology and extend it to a wider audience across its network. 

Yamli was founded in 2007 by Lebanese entrepreneurs Habib Haddad and Imad Jureidini, who came up with the idea of a “Smart Arabic Keyboard” that allows users to type Arabic without an Arabic keyboard or if they are not used to using one.

They created a technology based on a real-time transliteration engine which converts words typed with Latin characters to their Arabic equivalent. Yahoo! Maktoob’s product is called “3arrebni” (Arabize me). 

“Yamli is a pioneering start up that created a clever solution for a real user need and built it on a robust technology, which remains best in class,” said Ahmed Nassef, vice president and managing director, Yahoo! Maktoob.

“By acquiring a licence to the technology, we will be able to marry it with our capabilities to further develop it and scale it to a wider audience through deep integration with our products and across multiple platforms.  When looking at opportunities, we seek innovations that we expect to add significant value to our offering, and Yamli, with its technology that brings exceptional accuracy and seamless usability, was a natural fit.”

Habib Haddad, Co-Founder of Yamli and who now runs Wamda, an enabling platform for entrepreneurs in the MENA region, said, “Yahoo! established a big success story within the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the region when it acquired Maktoob, and it is great to see it continue to support and work with start ups.  This deal represents a milestone for Yamli, which over the years has been growing at an incredible rate.  More than 3.5 billion words have been typed with Yamli to date, at a rate of 150 million words per month.”  

As a first phase, “3arrebni” has launched as a standalone destination page http://maktoob.3arrebni.yahoo.com and will soon be accessible through Yahoo! Maktoob’s homepage. The following months will see the product seamlessly integrated with Yahoo! Messenger, Yahoo! Mail in Arabic, Yahoo! Search, and in areas requiring user generated input such as Yahoo! Maktoob Forums and in the comments sections of Yahoo! Maktoob’s media properties, including News. 

Nassef added, “With the introduction of “3arrebni” across our products and platforms, we are enriching Arabic content online by enabling participation that brings Arabic characters to the forefront, which often times would have been done using the English language or Latin characters.  We’re very excited to be bringing this service to our users, and potentially introducing this solution to a whole new audience for the first time.”

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