Facebook Rapidly Spreading in Iraq During the Last 30 Days

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Before May of this year, Facebook didn’t report numbers on its userbase in Iraq. However, now that it is, the number of active Facebook users in Iraq has grown from just 400 on May 1 to over 45,000 as of today – over 100x growth. Even though it’s likely that Iraqis have been using Facebook before the company started reporting numbers on the country, Facebook’s stats still reflect the site’s increasing spread in the country in recent weeks.

While it’s not apparent what caused such rapid growth in the last month, Facebook has made great strides in language localization. In March, Facebook announced that the site was available in Arabic, one of the official languages in Iraq. What’s interesting about this particular translation project is the linguistic challenge of translating an English site into langauges, like Arabic, that read right to left, that are more gender-based, and that have different dialects that are constantly changing. As Facebook’s Ghassan Haddad writes on the Facebook blog:

“In English, verbs do not change based on the gender of the person described, whereas in Arabic and Hebrew, two words with the same meaning are used differently based on whether a person is male or female. In order to deal with this issue, our developers built a feature we call dynamic explosion, which detects a person’s gender and selects the matching translation.”

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Of its counterparts in the Middle East, Iraq’s Facebook audience is still small, with countries like Israel at 1.2 million users, Saudi Arabia and the UAE at 600,000 each, and Kuwait at 170,000, according to Inside Facebook’s Global Monitoring Report. Nevertheless, the growth of Facebook’s reported audience in Iraq reflects strong demand for the service in the region.

Iran was also in the news recently for blocking Facebook for a few days during its recent presidential election season. However, it has since lifted the ban.