Maktoob Yahoo Deal Brings Jordan To The Forefront: What Inspiration Looks Like

Undeniably, the biggest news in Jordan this past week was the Yahoo! and Maktoob deal. Scanning the local papers or media for that matter might not be the best barometer for the importance of this business deal, but then again, local media has never been the best barometer for most things. Have no fear though, blogs, twitter and facebook seemed to be covering it just fine in another impressive display of how social social-media can really get. Actually, one of the funniest tweets came by way of Samih Toukan, co-founder of Maktoob, who said: “We did an interview with Jordan TV put us as the last news item after talking about Fasoolia, Koosa, Lahmeh and other usless stuff”

But why is this big news in the first place?

Is it because a Jordanian-born company was acquired by one of the biggest Internet giants in the world? Perhaps. Although that wouldn’t be the whole story. If it was, then people who are neither tech-enthusiasts or business news aficionados would fail miserably at finding value in this tale.

And that’s what’s important at the end of the day: finding value.

Two guys decide to create an email service that offered Arab users the chance to communicate in Arabic at a time when no one saw value in such a service. But those who had the foresight did see the value and made an investment. The service grows into a portal. The portal creates more Arabic-based services. It grows in to a network. Hundreds of people are now helping to fuel that network, which is home to millions of users across the Arab world. Enter Yahoo.

The value isn’t the monetary value of the business deal, nor the services that Maktoob created that have been used by millions of people. The value lies in the story. It’s in the telling. It’s a story about human ingenuity at its rawest moment. It’s a story whose most valuable asset is its ability to inspire.

Today, more than ever, our heroes and icons are not Arab. Our inspirational stories are not Arab. They are made up of names like Bill Gates, Micheal Jordan and Barack Obama. If anything, the main source of our own stories today comes in the form of stories from yesterday; our constant mourning of a legacy established in the shadows of the Islamic Golden Age.

What the Maktoob story offers for Jordan is its ability to inspire. It’s capacity to fill the youngest members of this society with hope and aspiration, both of which are the primary elements to fuel growth, ambition, creativity and success. One story begets another. It is a domino effect. It is how this world turns.

Maktoob is not alone. It is not the first and it will definitely not be the last. But if Jordan’s greatest asset (yes, a country with no resources, we know) – is indeed its people, then what those people create and how they created it, is essential. The process story is important. The telling of the tale is the whole ball game. Governments cannot create inspiration; only people can. People inspire other people. Their stories connect with them at the most primary human level. It triggers something. It forges new destinies and new paths for others to tread.

In Arabic, Maktoob might mean “written”, but as most of you know, it also means “what is written”, or, in other words, “destiny”. If anything, this story might just be the small pebble in the pond that ripples through our small country and its enormous community of young and uninspired people – searching for something to connect with.

But it will all come down to how that story is told.

How it’s written will be just as important as what is written.


  • A great success Mr. Toukan i am an entreprenuer who started an online business myself.. We jordanians have it all but i think what is missing is the small push to start meaning that we all have lots of creative inspirational ideas of which we wish we can give life and soul to, but we reach to a stage where we just forget about it and keep thinking about the comfor zone, that has a less effect on the country’s development.

    Hope my thoughts could change the perspective of some .

    Again congrats Mr. Toukan and His partner i will be working hard too to achieve maybe more of what you did.

  • awesome article from an amazing person and for an inspiring story.. i hope hundreds more of these kinds of success stories spring up in amman for the next coming years.. 2 thumsb up

  • Not to be knocking anything out of their success and i think its wonderful that they managed to achieve what they did but i have a little question.
    You said that they have over a million subscriber … why is it that i haven’t met a single one, even at the level of getting somebody’s email to be, and as far as i can recall i never even visited the link. why is that ?>

  • @bambam: well, to begin with, users in the above context is not in reference to email subscribers but to users of the wider network. second, i surprisingly know a lot of people who still have a maktoob email account. i even met a guy in egypt who gave me his address. and third, email subscribers are no more reflective of maktoob’s significance as an arab web portal with arabized services, than yahoo mail is to what yahoo has been offering over the years as a portal. today, it’s about services: news, games, blogs, listings, etc.

  • You missed my point about the email, email is the most basic of the services they provide, anyways i take it from your comment that you are more like me, never really used the service but i guess we are not the target audience for it perhaps.
    I don’t know, contrary to the usual i’m just asking not confronting, I want to know why yahoo would go for something “most” (by my experience and IMHO) people in jordan won’t use. there must be something we as jordanians are missing out on … just wondering what it is.

  • @bambam: indeed, i wouldn’t include myself in maktoob’s target audience, or yahoo’s for that matter. i use gmail. i think the majority of jordanians use yahoo! mail. but in any case, you have to think outside the realms of jordan. the “big” things that jordanians produce end up being used by the arab market at-large. this applies to every single jordanian organization or business that has ever ventured beyond its domestic borders. if maktoob remained within jordan, targeting only jordanians, it wouldn’t get anywhere. the same can be said of aramex, hikmet or any of the large organizations whose products and services are designed to be sold in much larger markets: the arab world.

    hence, what i assume, is yahoo’s interest here.

  • Nice post. Only time will tell how the story will be told a few years from now, but for sure the region certainly needs more Samih Toukans. Maktoob’s success now gives just a little more credibility to everyone in the region that calls themself an entrepreneur and is struggling to innovate.

  • I was waiting for the time when Yahoo would incorporate Arabic language into its services! Finally it is here and through a Jordanian company, I am so proud! This is going to generate many jobs, which I hope will be Jordan based too! It feels so good to see some positivity!

  • well going back 6 years ago, nearly everyone i knew in Egypt, who had any kind of internet in their homes; knew about Maktoob. maybe it was “tha thing” at that time, still Maktoob is quiet “well known” to a huge amount of people, especially those with limited English.

    i thought it was Egyptian( due to the large scale of Egyptian subscribers there?), good to know its from Jordan.

    nice read..

  • That really is good news, and I’m surprised that it isn’t touted more on the local media. I did some market research not too long ago for a consulting firm. The idea was to identify companies with acquisition potential for the big fish (the example was a Chinese search engine called Baidu being acquired by Google). At the time, Maktoob was one of the prime candidates for such an acquisition. I’m happy to see it actually came about.

  • I Abbas Azhar is a Pakistani Muslim. I visit the site of Maktoob it is very appreciated that Jordan an historical Muslim Culture is on line. Yahoo try to make sure the Global Village dream come true. World Wide distance is no more matter and all the people joint in a chain. Our world need PEACE- LOVE and Brother Hood. It’s possible only when we Respect each others and communicate with every one. Don’t CRITICIZE to any one. All HUMAN have same right for Living- Worship due to their FAITH.


Your Two Piasters: