If you’ve lost track, the web business is now entering the era of “Web
3.0” – which, for our purposes, is the maturation and consolidation of
Web 2.0, which itself represented a major advance over Web 1.0 (or, back
then in the late ‘90s, just “the web”).
Of course, the term “Web
3.0” is used by most people to describe the next big major
technological breakthrough in Internet technology, but notice I said
“web business” – meaning that, beyond the expansion of the social
interaction (Facebook, Twitter) revolution of Web 2.0, there doesn’t
seem to be anything all that new and exciting on the horizon.
Notice, though, that I said “web business,” not web technology.
the business of running a website – thanks largely to Google and its ad
programs, by the way – has improved since Web 1.0 is clear. Today it is
possible to make money on a website, something that just a decade ago
was considered almost impossible. But beyond online shopping and ever
more precise ad targeting (where advertisers and website owners hope and
pray that someone will click on those ad links!), there seems to be
very little new innovation on the WWW.
But it seems there is room for innovation, after all – and it comes, of
all places, from an Israeli company associated with Web 1.0, the era of
the “portal” and free web e-mail, and has expanded its offerings to
cover almost anything a web user would want or need. Walla recently
started a new site, called “Walla Mazal Tov,” which lets you do
everything from searching for a wedding hall to working out place
settings at your party, to even having your kid learn their bar mitzva
In an era of iPhones and specialized web services that run the gamut,
it’s easy for a “department store” portal like Walla to get lost in the
shuffle; too often on the net, being “all things to all people”
translates to being “nothing to no one.” Cognizant of the problem, Walla
has been designing tools that will fill niches that aren’t being
covered elsewhere – especially those that can appeal to younger users,
who don’t even bother with e-mail (one of the signature services offered
by Walla and other web portals) anymore, preferring texting and
“One of our objectives is to provide web users with everything they need,” says Walla Mazal Tov director Shimon Cohen.
“We are the top site in Israel for younger users, and we wanted to
provide them with tools they could use that they wouldn’t find
elsewhere,” like the tools Walla Mazal Tov provides for those planning
“Being organized is half the battle in keeping wedding costs down, so we
provide everything a couple needs to remain organized, including lists,
price calculators, help with planning, a site that searches out
discounted wedding dresses and a program to figure out seating.”
In a useful twist, the program can even recommend preferred dates by
price (as some nights are more expensive than others) and nights when a
wedding might “interfere” with a major event, such as Maccabee Tel
Aviv’s appearance in the Final Four! And as anyone who has ever “done” a
wedding knows, figuring out who should sit next to whom is one of the
biggest planning hassles. To make it easier, Walla Mazal Tov provides
virtual “tables” that you can label with names, moving them around until
you get the right combination. You can then print out the lists, and
even turn them into placecards.
The service is unique in Israel (although similar services can be found
on other websites), but Walla Mazal Tov’s bar mitzva teaching service is
“Some kids learn better with a rabbi or tutor teaching them, but many
others don’t. Plus lessons can be expensive,” says Cohen. A prospective
bar mitzvah candidate can use the site to prepare his Torah/Haftora
reading, letting him set his own schedule for training (the site is
always up) and saving money on “professional” training in the process.
The candidate puts in his birthday, “style” (Ashkenazic, Sephardic,
Moroccan, etc.), and other details, sets up an account where he can
listen to the portion being read by a professional and practice it
(using interactive computer techniques, games, webcams and microphones),
“turning it from a chore to something enjoyable and encouraging
learning,” says Cohen.
The site was very expensive to put together – it cost in excess of $4
million, Cohen adds – “all of it donated by a haredi Jew from England in
memory of his parents.”
In just the first few months of its operation, nearly 10,000 people have used the bar mitzva section of Walla Mazal Tov.
“It’s a great way for kids studying with a rabbi to practice as well,” Cohen adds.
But Walla Mazal Tov’s latest offering may top even the bar mitzva
program when it comes to saving time, hassle, and money: virtual tours
of wedding halls throughout Israel. The site, together with several
partners, has put together a 360 degree online tour of halls that let
you get a real idea of what the place looks like – before you go for a
“real” tour. This way, says Cohen, you can weed out the places that
really don’t appeal to you, or that aren’t big enough (or are too big)
for the affair you have in mind.
“It’s a virtual tour available anytime in any language, designed to save time and money.”
And it’s innovation like Walla Mazal Tov that keeps a Web 1.0 company in the game, ready for the world of Web 3.0.