No one can dispute the success forums have had in the Middle East. As products of the Web 1.0, forums are often looked down upon as old fashioned and out of vogue. Startups entering the Middle East have brought forth blogs, social-networking, video sharing, and web applications. All of this is leading to one thing, That’s right… Web 2.0.
And so, a question comes to mind: Has the Middle East finally arrived at Web 2.0?
Current trends seem to suggest we are well on our way, with social sharing startups like Darabat.com and Efleg.com on the rise, or the already established D1G.com, it seems like we’re moving from the ever so popular Forum Model that dominates most of the Middle Eastern market to the more dynamic User-Generated Content Model.
However, even though this seems to be the rising trend, it seems like forums are still being integrated within sites almost everywhere, serving the same functionality they have been for the last decade, and better yet, the population seems to be responsive towards this kind of hybrid model.
This observation indicates a few things, for one that the Middle Eastern market is just not ready to finally break away from that model, and since the success of entrepreneurs and new startups depend on user acceptance and interest, it would be too risky to completely let it go.
The risk comes from the already low Internet traffic generated region-wide, contributing to only 3.5% of the world’s total, making every user count. However, it would also be interesting to note that with only a 30% penetration ratio and being the second largest growing market worldwide (1,675.1 % between 2000-2009), there is a lot of room to grow, which should bring forth diversity in opinion and more users to gain or lose, which will really indicate whether forums are here to stay.
So where are we going with this? Since we can already see that forums are here to stay at least for the near future, it might be wise to look into developing new means to keep forums relevant, in terms of accessibility and participation, while looking at the fact Internet enabled handheld devices are currently booming in the Middle East, the time to capitalize on this market would be now, before the Forum loses all relevance and the opportunity to further monetize goes with it.