The passing of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah was hardly a surprise. The nonagenarian monarch was known to be in poor health, and rumors of his death had swirled for months. The succession of his brother, Crown Prince Salman, was a foregone conclusion.

So much so that, not long after Abdullah was declared dead Thursday, the Saudi state had already marked Salman's ascension through various channels on the Internet.

Ahmed Al Omran, the Wall Street Journal's correspondent in Saudi Arabia, observed two rapid changes.

First, the new king's Twitter account was adjusted.


named after him as the crown prince now appeared on Google Maps as King Salman Road.

The Saudi royal family rules over its oil-rich domain with absolute authority, built on draconian religious laws that curb women's freedoms and restrict free speech. Many critics point to the kingdom's long-standing track record of human rights abuses, which include the recent sentencing of an outspoken blogger to prison time and 1,000 lashes.

Yet the United States maintains strong links with the Saudi royal family, as well as a host of U.S. companies. Google CEO Eric Schmidt plans to visit Riyadh next week to deliver the keynote address at the country's Global Competitiveness Forum. It's unlikely he'll speak out in defense of Saudi bloggers.