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Elections Catapult Israeli Internet Status

Last week's elections catapulted Israeli Internet services into higher visibility, with all the main Israeli content providers scrambled to establish special election sites.

The Israeli Second Television Channel established a site that broadcast the election results in real time during a special three-hour broadcast, using Real Video technology, to surfers all over the world.

Internet provider NetVision furnished specialized servers enabling this to be the most extensive broadcasting project ever accomplished in Israel.

IOL, one of the most popular Israeli portals, held chat sessions with Prime Ministerial candidates Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Mordechai.

Aviad Segal, IOL's election site editor, observed that two weeks prior to the elections, only 2,000 surfers visited the site daily, mostly from outside Israel. Just before the elections, this site became one of IOL's most popular channels. Daily Hebrew-language paper Ha'aretz's site, which is also on the IOL portal, saw an increase of tens of percentage points with the number of hits from abroad.

Yediot Acharonot, the most popular Hebrew-language daily paper in Israel, does not usually have an Internet site, but opened a special one just a few weeks before the elections. Ze'ev Hasper, manager of Internet activities for Yediot A'charonot, stated that the special site received more foreign visitors than Israelis, but would not disclose any exact figures.

Internet site builders also profited from the elections, with more than 30 parties entering the elections and most opting for Web sites to relay their platform. Some of the sites, such as the Likud and Shas sites, included streaming video. The Likud site included a direct link to a database that gave viewers a glimpse of their local polling station.

The official Israeli election site, which was part of the Knesset (The Israeli Parlament) site, presented the official results of the elections as soon as they were published.

These sites are now being taken off the network and most will not be updated until the next election in four years time. However the development and presence of Hebrew-language channels, as experienced during the election period, can no longer be ignored.



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