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Silent but deadly

Google launched a Hebrew site on the qt. It may blow noisy locals out of the water

Google, the fastest search engine on the Internet, launched its Hebrew version modestly. It didn't hire PR agents or launch a campaign, it didn't raise capital or team up with any of the locals. hit the Web in pure Google tradition: A small team of programmers transformed the basic, bare home screen into Hebrew.

Contacting Google resulted in a polite reply that Google did not open an Israeli office, nor will it for now. It has no Israeli partners. It hopes we enjoy the site.

Google is what Internet was supposed to be, but so seldom is. It generates tremendous buzz and minimum costs. It's efficient, simple, friendly and spreading fast around the world. Available in 66 languages, including Persian, Chinese and Bulgarian, the search engine now finds itself entering a deathly sick market.

From paucity of resources to lack of professionalism to malfunctioning but expensive infrastructure, the Israeli Internet is not a joy to behold.

The utter silence in which Google landed in the local field serves to remind us of the tremendous noise Hebrew-language engine Walla has been making, and to what effect.

Now, to be fair, Walla is an index, not a search engine. But its attitude is that it invented the wheel right there in the lab by its coffee machine.

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Most Internet companies have sobered up from their grandiose illusions, as they cut back and chop. Not Walla, which retains its cooooooool healthy young image even though Internet isn't cool and young any more, and it certainly isn't healthy.

Yet a few weeks ago Walla commenced another campaign to remind us that it's still around. It's fighting hard and loud to hang on while its rivals give up the ghost, presumably assuming that the last to survive will make it big-time, when the storm passes.

If anything, the Israeli company's attitude is likely to bury it deeper than the Dead Sea, down by most of the Hebrew portals of its ilk. Meanwhile it's treating the nation to raucous film clips with a soundtrack that brings to mind an attack of flatulence than anything else.

Walla hasn't exactly evolved. Its opening page is childish and growing more so, and its search function is deficient. It can't even track down many sites on the Israeli web.

Today, for instance, I tried to look for Kesselman & Kesselman, a leading accounting firm. Entering the Hebrew for Kesselman into Google gave at least 100 results, with the top 10 of real relevance, including the company's website, as well as press articles on the subject and more. Entering it into Walla resulted in "no sites found".

As we said, Google is a search engine, Walla is an index. But still, Walla failed to find Kesselman, one of Israel's most established firms, while results gaily popped up on Google by the dozen. Also, they appeared in less time than it took Walla to present that no-show screen.

Silent but deadly, Google appeared on the local scene like a breath of fresh wind compared with the long, loud, forceful bluster of Walla's last campaign. For all the tiredness of Israel's Internet scene, the upstart site from California could make a real difference and force it to finally, however belatedly, develop itself.