The view from the Nile

Hey there blogworld. So I’m writing this from holiday – why I hear you ask? Haven’t i got anything better to do? Well I do(I’d like to pretend)but also out of a very strong sense of loyalty to my fellow blog team at the IAB and the blog reader universe I am going to give you a little insight to the world of the internet in the country where I am – Egypt (plus if I call this work maybe i can get away with charging the hugely expensive internet bill on expenses! Nice try eh?).

According to our guide, the very learned Mohammad who took us round the Cairo Museum yesterday and patiently waited while my Mum and I argued over which Louis Vuitton bag looked less fake in the bazaar, Egyptians will surf the internet and read news in Arabic, but chat rooms are predomimantly carried out in English. I tried to ask him what an arabic keyboard looked like but he wasn’t really sure what I was talking about – I especially confused him by talking about qwerty and what were the most popular keys in the Arabic language. He did look at me very funnily when I asked if Google had an Arabic version – of course they do.

I find the internet habits of different countries fascinating. It is fast becoming obvious that English is the language of the social net, andas a result of this maybecome the language of the younger generations as time goes on. But the different nuances of each language online is amazing – imagine reading the internet in one language but when you want to chat to your friends reverting to another? Possibly having only 26 characters to choose from is a big plus when typing fast trying to ape conversation. But what are we doing to this language? Will we all end up typing LOL (I still haven’t worked out if it means lots of love or laugh out loud – probably a good thing as the wrong interpretation with the wrong person could be very bad) – will our language become adapted to the device or the type of interaction? Will shortened txt spk become what we all end up using in years to come purely because Blackberry keyboards are so frustrating and aren’t really keyboards at all, just the chance to prove how fat my fingers are and hence why I can’t end up typing anything on my new blackberry (can you sense my blackberry rage coming through?!).

It is very inspirational being in the country of the originators of the hieroglyphics – surely the founding fathers of iconsthat some of us use online now.In ancient Egypt they had the philosophy that meant they used pictures instead of words wherever possible. Not only did this look much prettier and make things more enjoyable to read, but also shortened the amount of space youneeded to tell a storygiving you more room in which to write. Imagine if instead of writing we would use icons to get our meaning across. It would make reading work emails much more exciting, and you’d never get confused as to whether or not someone was laughing out loud at you or telling you they loved you lots. So my challenge to the mobile internet portals and handset manufacturers is this – give us tools to stop using short letters instead of words, and give us some pictures instead, a whole library of them (and no, emoticons don’t count, not unless they’re much improved on). That would give the archeologists of the future something to get excited (and probably very confused) about. As it is at the moment future historians will probably see us as the era where no vowels existed, everyone had tiny little fingers and large eyes – all the better to type with and see on small screens. Something that may happen as we evolve if mobile keyboards don’t get better soon. There’s a challenge to Apple et al, come up with some cool icons that we can use in everyday language when typing online or on mobiles – let’s make our online language much more colourful and fun!

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    I’m going to send you an email in Wingdings! :o)