Google unveils Web-free 'tweeting' in Egypt move

Google, in response to the Internet blockade in Egypt, said Monday that it had created a way to post messages to microblogging service Twitter by making telephone calls.

Google worked with Twitter and freshly acquired SayNow, a startup specializing in social online voice platforms, to make it possible for anyone to "tweet" by leaving a message at any of three telephone numbers.

"Like many people we've been glued to the news unfolding in Egypt and thinking of what we could do to help people on the ground," Google product manager Abdel-Karim Mardini and SayNow co-founder Ujjwal Singh said in a blog post.

"Over the weekend we came up with the idea of a speak-to-tweet service - the ability for anyone to tweet using just a voice connection," they said.

Voice mail messages left at +16504194196; +390662207294 or +97316199855 will instantly be converted into text messages, referred to as tweets, and posted at Twitter with an identifying "hashtag" of #egypt.

Twitter hashtags are intended as search terms so people can more easily find comments related to particular topics or events.

People can call the same numbers to listen to messages or hear them online at twitter.com/speak2tweet.

"We hope that this will go some way to helping people in Egypt stay connected at this very difficult time," said Singh and Mardini. "Our thoughts are with everyone there."

Google, meanwhile, declined to comment on reports that one of its Egypt-based marketing executives, Wael Ghonim, has been missing since late Friday.

"We care deeply about the safety of our employees, but to protect their privacy, we don't comment on them individually," a spokesman for the California Internet giant said in an email response to an AFP inquiry.

Egypt's last working Internet service provider, the Noor Group, went down on Monday, according to US Web monitoring company Renesys, leaving the crisis-torn nation completely offline.

Egypt's four main Internet service providers - Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt and Etisalat Misr - cut off international access to their customers on Thursday after days of protests against President Hosni Mubarak.

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