The Arabic social-networking website AreebaAreeba has an important status update: It is bigger than Twitter in the Middle East.

The site’s chief executive Ayman Irshaid says its user base has hit 5 million, which he says eclipses Twitter’s in the Middle East.

However, other figures suggest that is not the case, placing the Arabic platform behind the U.S. microblogging service in terms of both active users and website visitors.

AreebaAreeba launched in 2011, billed as the Middle East’s answer to Facebook, and then claiming about 400,000 users.

The site – which allows users to share photos, form groups and play games – has grown its user base exponentially since then, Irshaid said.

“I’m bigger than Twitter in the region,” he said. “I have 5 million people. Twitter doesn’t have 5 million people in the Middle East.”

A Twitter spokesperson told Al Arabiya News that it does not break down its user base by country, but says it has more than 288 million monthly active users worldwide.

Other indicators put Twitter well ahead of AreebaAreeba in the Middle East.

The Arab Social Media Report, produced by the Dubai School of Government, estimated that the total number of active Twitter users in the Arab world stood at 5,797,500 in March 2014.

The top 10 countries alone, all of which are in the Middle East, have 5,288,000 active Twitter users.

According to Alexa.com, which tracks trends in website traffic, Twitter is the eighth most visited website in the United Arab Emirates, while AreebaAreeba ranks at 2,957th place.

In Egypt – which Irshaid said is AreebaAreeba’s biggest market – the site is ranked 14,893rd, while Twitter is the 26th most popular online destination, according to Alexa.

AreebaAreeba this week hosted the Social Media Summit in Dubai, which Irshaid said was partly designed to promote the site to advertising agencies ahead of the planned monetization of the site later this year.

He said the site, which he has so far funded himself, is planning to launch a mobile application as part of its aim to boost its user base to 10 million by 2016.

‘Fake accounts’
Asked to justify his claim to be “bigger than Twitter” in the Middle East, Irshaid said there are many “fake” Twitter accounts in Saudi Arabia, especially among followers of celebrities.

Harris Breslow, an associate professor in the Department of Mass Communication at the American University of Sharjah, says Twitter has approximately 7.5 million users – both active and inactive – in the Middle East… see more

source: alarabiya.net