An army of Daouds

Why Internet video? Why now? Here’s why. Note the numbers for adults under 30.

That poll will get all the coverage tomorrow, but the real web news tonight is the impending launch of Sawafi, which bills itself as the first broad-based search engine optimized for Arabic. According to the managing director of the German firm behind the project, there are only 100 million Arabic-language pages online right now — a cool 0.2% of the global total. An “Arab Google” could go a long way towards bumping those numbers up and breaking the stranglehold on information currently held by state censors. For a preview of how things are likely to play out, look no further than the Iranian blogosphere, which has grown so rapidly over the past five years that the mullahs are now scrambling to contain it. In fact, according to the Post-Gazette, Iran’s web censorship infrastructure is second in size and sophistication only to that of Bill Gates’s drinking buddy.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that “an army of Daouds” would be a force for liberation. The most ‘Net-savvy guys in the Middle East at the moment aren’t exactly the kinds of people whose jobs we want to make easier, as Aaron could explain in some detail. JihadTV is already gaining in reach; god only knows with things like Sawafi will do for

The technology’s coming whether we like it or not, though, so let’s hope there are more Zeyads out there than there are Zarqawis as the Arab blogosphere takes off. It’d be sweet to click over there someday a few years from now and see banners like this:

Here’s hoping.