If Twitter can have their site in Urdu, why can’t Facebook?

With 8.5 million Pakistani Facebook users, it is surprising to see why Facebook has turned a blind eye towards Urdu!

Yumna Rafi July 03, 2013
Since its inception in 2004, Facebook has been a revolution, an addiction, a maddening genius which took over websites like MySpace, Orkut, hi5 and revolutionized the dynamics of social interaction.

To cater to its ever increasing user base, 1.11 billion (active March 2013), Facebook has revamped itself many times to keep a competitive edge and keep their user base intact.

In 2008, it offered users a new experience- now Facebook could be used in one’s mother tongue. This breakthrough received immense positive feedback. The language barrier was felt no more and networking became simpler, authentic and increasingly intimate.

However, with Facebook allowing over 50 languages across the globe, it is regretful to see that Urdu, the national language of Pakistan, is still not represented on Facebook.

Urdu is the fourth most widely spoken language in the world with approximately over 160 million speakers. Among other regional languages like Tamil, Punjabi being introduced on Facebook, Urdu is nowhere to be found.

Currently, there are above 8.5 million Facebook users in Pakistan, which ranks it on number 27 in the global list of countries using Facebook. The popularity of Facebook amongst Pakistani users can be gauged by recent prediction which showed that the site will be the ‘number one visited’ website.

With the nation heavily visiting this site daily, it is even more surprising to see that Facebook has turned a blind eye towards the language of the Pakistanis.

The non-representation of Urdu has great social implications for it limits Pakistan’s voice in an internationally known medium. It confines the usage of social media in Pakistan to only upper and middle class citizens who are familiar with basics of English. The concerns and issues of the oppressed class, who are already marginalised in mainstream media, are further restricted.

The success of Facebook may have risen to new zeniths but the exclusion of Urdu raises questions of bias towards this language over others. What’s more, Facebook has introduced in-line translations which can translate any particular line in a language of the user’s choice. But this, once again, excludes direct translations in or of Urdu.

Millions of Urdu speaking people have shifted to using roman Urdu or a mixture of English and Urdu- minglish. This phenomenon is slowly leading to degeneration of the language itself. It is not surprising to see that the language has become interchangeable with Hindi, although it differs in both script and dialect.

Needless to say, the culture and identity of Pakistanis is slowly being ripped apart and leading to an amalgamation of bits and parts from other cultures. It’s leading to an identity crisis where many Pakistanis are not well versed with either English or Urdu and are finding themselves in a quandary.

Moreover, it has polarised the population based on their English speaking ability.

If Mark Zuckerberg is attempting to be impartial in the features that are being offered to countries, he should include Urdu as one of the many languages offered on his site.

If Twitter can have their website in Urdu, why can’t Facebook?
Yumna Rafi Currently majoring in Journalism from Institute of Business Management and working at Geo News.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Omer siddiqi | 8 years ago | Reply @No Fool: Really? Where in Pakistan do you live? and please tell me how does a pakhtun and a sindhi communicate?
safeer ahmad | 8 years ago | Reply The fact is it took Bhutto to make us realise our traditional dress is Shalwar Kameez, which is a sign of illiteracy in Pakistan even today. I agree, all politicians and other office bearers wear it, but they didn't before ZA Bhutto.
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