A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Arabic gchat: new service or PR?

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on September 20, 2008

Earlier this week I was surprised to find this press release about Google’s gchat published as a new item on AME Info. The press release announces the launch of Arabic gchat:

Have you ever wanted to ask a friend a quick question online without writing an entire email? Or do you want to be able to switch an email conversation easily from English to Arabic without having to change your setting each time? Google now offers solutions to both, following the launch today of several new features in the Arabic version of Gmail.

For the first time, the popular webmail service provides the ability to send instant messages in Arabic with the introduction of Gmail chat.

Instead of composing a formal email to a friend or colleague and waiting for a reply, you can now use chat to get a rapid response to quick queries. Gmail chat lets users see when their friends are online and get in touch however they want and just like email messages, chat sessions are searchable by you. Some of the features included are as follows:

– Gmail chat is integrated with your email so you can access it easily from the same screen as your Gmail inbox.

– Chat is in fully bi-directional (left-to-right and right-to-left) format, making it easier than ever to converse with family, friends, and colleagues in your own language.

– Customise your status so friends and colleagues can see what you’re doing or where you are. If you don’t want to be disturbed, you can make your chat status ‘invisible’ or ‘busy’.

– Use the Group chat option to converse with a number of friends at the same time, in the same window.

– Chat off-the-record if you want to keep conversations with other Gmail users from being archived in your inbox or your friend’s inbox.

– Enjoy new emoticons that allow you to add smiley faces and other expressions to your conversations

In addition to the introduction of chat, users will see some other changes to Gmail from today. We understand that Arabic language speakers may need to use Gmail in other language settings (such as English, French or Spanish) so we’ve made it easier for them to switch between languages. For example, if your email thread starts in English but you want to reply in Arabic, that’s now no problem…

[To read the rest of the release, please click the link above.]

I’m confused. After my first read of this press release, I thought: I’ve been able to use gchat (and Gmail) for Arabic script chat and email inter-changeably with English since at least the start of 2007, so how is this a new feature? After my second read, I thought: Okay, its Arabic Gmail and gchat that now offer this feature. But that doesn’t make sense, either. Why would the Arabic version of Gmail be slower to offer Arabic chat capabilities than the English version?

This is a total mystery to me. I’ve looked on Google’s corporate page and its official blog, but I can’t find any mention of the “launch” of Arabic gchat. Do any of you use Arabic Gmail? Does this press release make more sense to you than it does to me?

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