What is dumbfounding is that some of the most highly influential and highly valued sites in the world are banned by etisalat, or more strictly the TRA. Here is a breakdown:1. Social Networking sites
Although not all are banned, the value of such sites is huge. Facebook
which seems to have the most scope of the strict social networking sites has just had a bid from Yahoo for $900m. In any world, that's a big number. The potential for the site has yet to be reached. But it is in the same realm as orkut
, all at the mercy of the TRA. Even sites such as LinkedIn
could fall prey in these category. 2. Social LifestyleMyspace
straddles social networking and traditional web, and has, over recent years, become one of the most influential areas on the net for the 16-24 year olds competing like for like with facebook and other blog type sites. Myspace were bought by Newscorp for $580m but, even then, that was a lucky price. I would put it more in the region of $2bn today, despite its apparent lack of imagination in the style category3. Video
The banning of Youtube
which leave the whole online video world up for the blanket is one of the most backward decisions when the rest of the world is ploughing forward into the video generation. Youtube said recently that it wouldn't sell out for less than $1.5bn, which is a probably a little expensive due to its running costs, but ballpark close to $1bn is a good estimate.4. Photo
Sensitive pictures of someone with wasta probably lead to the ban of Flickr. When Flickr
was bought by Yahoo in 2005 it went for a rumoured $30m which, in the grand scheme of what is going on right now, is small change. You could claim that it is worth a couple of hundred right now, and with synergy values with myspace, if purchased, could be worth a lot more.5. VOIP
really worth $2.6bn? Who knows? But there is long term potential in telecoms, and Skype is the biggest player in the VoIP market.
6. Other sitesBoingboing
is valued at about $40m, but how do you value a site such as Michelle Malkin
, that was banned because of the Cartoon debacle? Is it not better to listen to what people have to say, than shut out the views of others? Shouldn't the population be trusted to make their own informed opinion than to be guided by strong opinions?7. Real sites that should be banned
I have never really had a problem with the banning of pornography or sites that verge on that limit. There is no doubt that pornography still brings in the bucks, especially online, but since this really does "contradict with the UAE social, cultural, political, economical, or religious values", as stated by Etisalat, I have no real reason to put a value on any real site. I mean, how much is playboy.com
What is the point of providing you with these figures? The point is that the money is onw thing but the value is something else.
The value lies in the potential of these sites, their potential to build, and their potential to bring in the benjamins. The value lies in the investment in time and building such networks. The value lies in the technology. The value lies in being leading edge. The value lies in the what the Internet can do. Weyak
has already proved that it is a lame substitute for what is probably one of the easiest areas to emulate. Simple technical and UI issues are a step backward when you have the potential to take two step forwards. If you are remove what is perceived as competition, then you need to provide a viable alternative in a country which prides itself with being technologically forward.
Billions of dollars are atributed to these companies. These are the companies that leading Web 2.0, and yet the UAE appears to consider these a threat, because sites such as those listed, do not contradict the value of the UAE. They could help to develop and share the values further.
Imagine myspace, tailored for the Arabic population? Why not work with myspace, to build something viable for the Muslim world? Why shut them out and let everyone lose out on the potential? What's next? Banning the blogging sites and removing freedom of speech to prehistoric times would be a step that I don't think anyone is stupid enough to do, but it has been proved before. And if the rest of web 2.0 is blocked then social bookmarking sites such as del.icio.us
could also be up for the chop. The whole banning mentality extends past "value", past freedom of speech - it goes past the whole value of the internet, it goes past sharing, whether that be of pictures or communication or data or anything else. It extends to trying to control the internet which is an evolving medium. Use the medium, rather than trying to restrict it.
Is it all about money? Is about about values? No, it is all about value
. And that value is not being shared with the residents of the UAE.