« Duck and Cover | Main | SemantiNet gets Scobleized »

May 04, 2008



Excellent post Shai. One thing you didn't mention about Israeli web design is the annoying music that starts up whenever you go to a Hebrew Israeli designed site. That drives me absolutely insane!

I don't think anything can be done, only time will make a difference.


Great post Shai, i really dont think that there is a definitive answer, but perhaps its about a, size and b, culture. Israeli behavior when it comes to surfing is just not the same as anywhere else and we really cant compare without looking at it subjectively, Its a close nit society where communication is always ongoing, so twittering makes less sense when most of my "audience" is probably in a radius of several kilometers away.
Their is little drive to develop rich content and valuable web services when at most you can hope for several hundred visitors a day (so you turn abroad, eh).
Regarding the banners, when most of the internet audience hovers in the vicinity of only a handful of sites, advertisers are left with little room to both be creative and reach their target audience, so they resort to the only product that they know, banner advertising.


I can't agree with you more.

I think the main problem is that there's not enough audience (market) here in Israel for local web sites,and when you're a young web entrepreneur you prefer to develop products that eventually will be used by others :-)

It's like the car industry, why there's no local car factory?

And yes I have an idea:
You can start fund local Internet sites.

You can start just like YCombinator - give small amounts of funds to bright young developers to build the next Israeli websites and collect large amount of local sites into your portfolio, and maybe you'll get to be part of the next Walla or Tapuz after small amount of funds.


This story has even more aspects but it will end up with the end customer, who's alternatives are currently few: once these defects would heart visitors engagement, solutions would spring. Were the local internet players playing in a bigger field we would see these changes taking place already, but since the Hebrew neighborhood offers just few alternatives, the leading players don't seek for solutions.

Having said that, do note the new content websites that were recently launched: new Globes, TheMarker IT, new Sport5 - these are 'relaxed' with ads, support FF and are relatively calm down on their ads section.

The change could be taking place, it just happens to take quite some while (the 2-3 years you mentioned)


Shai, this is a great post. I couldn't agree more with your analysis.

Your final sentence certainly struck a cord:

"as long as Israel cannot produce local Internet sites that are connected to the world at large, we limit the pool of talented local developers and entrepreneurs who could build the next great outward-facing Internet property."

I see that with every interview we do here with developers. It's quite rare to find a local developer who understands why things like cross-browser support or proper CSS are important. Not to mention accessibility concerns - one would thing that there is no one around here with any kind of disability that we need to accommodate for.

Even "RSS" still produces blank stares more often than not.

I see here a cultural / moral issue as well.

Perhaps the % of people with disabilities is not big enough to affect ad revenues, but don't we have an obligation to try and include them in the audience?

Maybe Internet Explorer does command 95% of the local market, but don't we have an obligation to promote innovation, openness and choice by supporting alternative browsers?

Gadi Shimshon

Great post. The problem, as you mentioned, is effecting all of us in the Israeli high tech scene, including those who went only to the first day of the com.vention, those who always look for outside audiences for their Internet ventures.

You may find it interesting to know that during the mid-late 90's, the gap wasn't that big - the .il domain was, relatively speaking, late by a year or so, not 3 or 4. I think things started to go worst after the 2001 bubble explosion. The only solution i'm afraid is to let time work. The new generation of Israeli Internet users will not cope with such a lame .il domain for a long time. many use facebook. many others download torrents. more and more are indulging in social media. To live in Israel, one has to be optimistic.

I prefer to be an optimistic about that though, personally, i shifted most of my work from "day 2 goers" into the first day goers. There was a famous Jewish poet who lived in 16th century Spain, who wrote "My heart is in the east but i'm at the end of west". well, we live here, our hearts leaning westerly, but in order to really pull this trick we need the local mainstream Internet scene to move a head. Patient and little bit optimism, i can only find comfort in that.


del.icio.us is not so new nor fancy :)

on my behalf, i assure you that the commercial Israeli web site
i'm in charge of at my work place
will be built according to proper web standard (as followed by the W3C rule)

Doron Nir

I agree mostly with the article, but have several comments on the contrary (this is only more appropriate as we are on the week of our 60th independance day):

1. We are a small and crowded country, and as far as "advertisement to content" ratio the web reflects the reality mostly dictated by TV and Newspapers, totally overwhelming the users with ads.
As VP of content in MSN Israel we suffered greatly from this problem, but i believe that at the end of the day users (yes, even Israeli users) are becoming smarter. They leave websites that abuse them, and read websites that have less ads. So like any other place in the world, we are getting there.

2. Firefox - every manager who has to face the reality of development budget constraints and the extremely low penetration of Firefox in Israel, will probably make the decision not to invest a lot of resources in supporting Mozilla. This is not ignorance or provincialism, but economics. I hope this will get better as FF usage in Israel grows.

3. Internet culture - with one of the highest broadband penetration rates in the world, it is a bit wierd to say Israel does not have an "Internet Culture". When you compare us to other non-english speaking countries, our internet culture is amazing. You should try and visit scandinavian or french sites to see some bad UE...

People - we still have a long way to go, but we are moving at amazing speed, and I for one, am very proud of our web portals, services and communities. For a group of 6 million people, stuck in the center of the middle east, we are the bomb!

Happy independance day, y'all


Spot on, and the government websites are the worst. Don't even try paying your taxes online with anything other than IE. Luckily there's this for Macs: http://www.kronenberg.org/ies4osx/

But it was a joy to discover Mapa ( http://www.mapa.co.il/ ) - a rich online map/routing site that seems to work fine in both Firefox and Safari.


Ilan, do you want the the penetration of FireFox to increase? How will it increase if the Israeli web sites don't support it? I am trying not to say here chicken and egg :)

Personally, one of the first FireFox add-ons I install is IETab, and then I configure it so that it is turned on automatically for all *.co.il sites. So these sites will see me as using IE, even though in fact I am using FireFox. I believe that IETab is very, very popular with Israeli FireFox users...

And one last point. If your web site doesn't work with FireFox, it's probably because of issues that also affect its accessibility, adaptability to mobile browsers, lack of compliance with standards which will surface in the next version of IE or the previous version of IE, etc. Writing proper, standard HTML is a great way to make sure your web site quality is high in general, on many fronts, and not just with regards to FF compatibility.


I'm not sure the "Culture" point is real, Israeli Internet culture isn't much different than other places. You can see pretty ugly talkbacks in Huffington Post etc as well - the fact that talkbacks in Ynet or Haaretz are uglier than in comparable US/UK sites (or what Ynet/Haaretz/NRG would like to think are "comparable sites") is more due to the different editorial standards.

The Firefox, or standards compliance, point is indeed a sore one. Personally I wouldn't hire a coder who uses IE as their default browser - a sure sign of incompetence for a tech person - but I understand there's shortage of talent, especially given its a small country with a lot of hi tech companies. What I really can't understand are the product/project managers. What kind of PM doesn't browse the website, at least once in a while, in Firefox, just to see what it looks like? You can easily spot these problems as they happen and have your team fix them, which should take 5 minutes of JavaScript work, not "a lot of resources".


Much like this (great) post, proper Internet would always be in English: If users/programmers know English well enough, there's no reason for them to be limited to Hebrew sites only. They've probably also had better UE on English sites, are more used to communicating in English while they're surfing the web, and would rather use the English UI of their operating system, software etc. - That's why I don't believe you can really expect them to develop Hebrew-content-based sites, rather than just sites supporting RTL UGC or encouraging localization (like http://www.therighttoleft.org/ ).

Shai Yallin

Methinks that the problem lies in a much more fundamental truth about Israel and the typical Israeli: we excel at mediocrity. The very reason for Israeli companies being so successful in the IT world is also their pitfall; they seem to be innovative and tend to develop their products faster than the competition, but eventually, the product is often 'just good enough'. We develop fast without proper planning in advance, and later on, when maintenance is needed, everything falls to pieces.

IMO, the reason that FF is so slow penetrating into the Israeli market has a lot to do with web site developers not thinking ahead when designing the sites of 5 years ago (most of which are still alive today, more or less with the same UI, *because* of this tendency to forgo a proper design phase and jump into implementation).

Sadly, just as we can't really change the behavior of the Israeli driver, the Israeli police officer or the Israeli chief-of-staffs, we can't change the behavior of the Israeli web developer. Mediocrity is as hard-wired into our society as are HaShachar chocolate spread or Elit instant coffee.


I just made the mistake of trying to use cibus.co.il with FireFox, and was gently reminded by their account manager -

** להזכירך ניתן להכנס למערכת ממערכת אקספלורר בלבד ....



@Yaniv: Cibus - i think i know that company.. is that LinkU behind the operation?

Miriam Schwab

The worst is google.co.il, and they really have no excuse. Any time I've tried to search for something, the results have been extremely poor. Even when I'm searching for something I know exists, something that was published recently, it won't show up in the results. The results tend to contain very old sites and content.

There is some good Israeli content out there, particularly from the news sites, but since they don't show up in Google, even that's not worth much.

The comments to this entry are closed.