Walla! was started in 1995 by Erez Philosoph and Gadi Hadar as an index of Internet sites. Today it is an Internet portal that offers news coverage of Israel and the rest of the world as well as additional original content in all of its portal fields. After going public on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) in 1998, Walla! worked with mobile carrier, Partner to create the first wireless portal for smartphone users in Israel in 1999 and merged with Israel On Line (IOL) in 2001. For several years, Walla! was the most visited website in Israel until Google past it last year.
Analysis: Walla! is the Israeli version of Yahoo!
In an entry posted earlier this year, Darnell Clayton of IsraGood alluded to Walla’s heading for the fate of becoming the Israeli version of Yahoo! I strongly agree that Walla’s history mimics Yahoo’s in several ways.
Since it tried preempting Google’s Gmail with its own free 1G e-mail account for users worldwide in 2004, Walla! has placed itself as a direct competitor to Google and has allowed its users to associate and compare its service with that of Google’s. So far, we all know who won that battle.
During that battle, Walla’s claim was that as Gmail was just starting, it would focus more on text and basics in email, whereas Walla’s email service was more established and allowed multimedia in addition to text in its email. Despite that campaign not working out, Walla’s most recent announcement is once again a multimedia claim.
According to a Globes article earlier this month, Walla! has launched a new “Video Talkback” feature to provide viewers with “the option of responding with video clips to programs and items appearing on the website.” What impact this will have on users on the site and if it will attract more viewers will need to be seen.
However, the marketing and target audience for it might be a little more different this time. Last week, a posting was sent to the Digital Eve Israel listserv about an opening at the company for an English-speaking marketing communications manager with a reply address to international marketing at the company. What Walla’s marketing department has planned for the next few months in response to Google Israel’s gaining ground and in support of its new “Video Talkback” technology will certainly determine whether Walla! can catch up to and possibly overthrow Google Israel and regain its title as most-viewed site or if it really will become the Israeli version of Yahoo!