The popularity of Twitter has soared in the Arab world over the past year, a study has revealed, reflecting the key role of the social networking site in the “Arab Spring” revolutions.
Online Twitter messages, or tweets, in Arabic rocketed from 99,000 a day in October 2010 to over two million last month, social media monitor Semiocast showed in its study into the most popular languages used on the site.
Arabic is now the eighth most popular language on the microblogging site, where users leave short messages of no more than 140 characters.
Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites were used to chronicle the recent uprisings in the Middle East and north Africa and mobilise support.
“With recent events, Twitter has grown exceptionally fast in the Middle East,” the report said.
Prominent bloggers including Lina Ben Mhenni, a Tunisian journalist who described the uprising against Zine el Abidine Ben Ali’s regime, and Google executive Wael Ghonim, who was a central inspiration to protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo, were praised for their “real time” depiction of events.
English remains the main language of Twitter, with over 70 million tweets posted daily, but now represents a considerably smaller percentage of the daily global number of tweets, dropping from over 60 percent in 2009 to just under 40 percent two years later.
Tweets in Japanese — the second most popular language on Twitter — account for 14.2 percent of the daily total, down from 19 percent a year ago.
In contrast the number of Thai tweets has multiplied by 470 percent.
Around half a million Chinese tweets make it onto the site every day, despite a ban on Twitter in the country.
The study covered a sample of 5.6 billion tweets, or 10 percent of tweets globally, collected between 1 July 2010 and 21 October 2011 in 61 languages.