Arabic on the Internet: My old position: Limited Workaround

Until a few years ago, I held to the position that using graphics to display Arabic on the internet is the most portable way of presentation. I no longer hold this view, since the technology has evolved, and we do have solutions to this now. However, my old position below is kept for historical purposes.The only truely portable form of Arabic on the internet, is a picture with Arabic in Graphics. This means that the page to be published can be scanned to a .GIF or .JPG file and published as an image.This can be read by any graphical browser on any platform. Even if the user is an Arabic speaker who happens to be temporarily abroad, using UNIX or Apple Macintosh, he will be able to read the site. There is no need for an arabized version of the Operating System, or a specifically arabized browser. There are several sites that use this technique successfully, such as some Egyptian Newspapers, and a very funny joke sites, containing lots of Upper Egyptian Jokes at Nokat Nos Com.The advantages of this solution are:

  • Works from any graphics-capable browser worldwide.
  • Independant from platform and/or Operating System.
  • No need for any plug-in or font.
  • Does not suffer from belonging to one Arabic code set standard or the other.

Of course, this is not a perfect solution, and has its disadvantages:

  • Arabic is not represented by a code set.
  • Cannot be indexed on keywords, and therefore cannot be searched by normal search engines.
  • Can be slow loading if the page contains color, ...etc.

There is a brief discussion of why you should not do it the way I suggest at this IHorizons Page. I am presenting it here, since they are all valid points.The key issue here is that different code sets are used for Arabic, and this becomes very painful for software companies, web publishers, and in turn end users. Here is an article by a Lotus Arabization expert - Hussam Eid describing the issue and urging Arab standard bodies to develop a unified standard for Arabic character sets.Until this happens, images are the most portable way - sorry!