Google helps Egyptians send tweets by voice

Google Inc. has developed a new service that will allow people in Egypt to post Twitter messages without an internet connection.

Google Inc. has developed a new service that will allow people in Egypt to post Twitter messages without an internet connection.

The "speak-to-tweet" service was developed over the weekend by engineers from Google, Twitter and SayNow, a company Google acquired last week.

Internet and cellphone data services have been largely unavailable in Egypt since Friday, three days after thousands of protesters took to the streets in Cairo and other major cities to demonstrate against the government of President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for three decades. According to reports, the government ordered internet service providers to cut service early Friday morning.

With the new Google service, which is already live, people in Egypt can post tweets by dialing an international telephone number and leaving a voicemail message. The message is then sent out as a tweet with the hashtag #egypt.

"We hope that this will go some way to helping people in Egypt stay connected at this very difficult time," Google said in a blog posting Monday.

Last ISP cuts service

Meanwhile, the last of Egypt's main internet service providers, the Noor Group, has gone dark.

The Noor Group had remained online even after Egypt's four main internet providers — Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt and Etisalat Misr — abruptly stopped shuttling internet traffic into and out of the country Friday morning.

At about 11 p.m. local time Monday, the Noor Group became unreachable, said James Cowie, chief technology officer of Renesys, a security firm based in Manchester, N.H. Renesys monitors massive directories of "routes," or set paths that define how web traffic moves from one place to another. The Noor Group's routes have disappeared, he said.

Cowie said engineers at the Noor Group and other service providers could quickly shut down the Internet by logging on to certain computers and changing a configuration file. The original Internet blackout on Friday took just 20 minutes to fully go into effect, he said.

Cellphone voice service, which was also partially down on Friday, was restored in Egypt starting Saturday, but text-messaging services have been disrupted as protests continue.