Tech (and Web 2.0) in Russia

Posted on June 19, 2008 by lewisshepherd

FACT: The RedOrbit tech-news site this week covered the European research and consulting firm GoalEurope’s release of its “Rating of Russian Web 2.0 Companies” (by Natasha Starkell, GoalEurope, June 12, 2008). According to the research report, “We have looked at each of the 378 websites to provide an extensive coverage of the Russian Web 2.0 space.” The report includes a characterization of the top websites across categories like news sites, blogs, social networks, photo/video sharing, Question/Answering sites, bookmarking, music, search engines, RSS feeds, online file storage and sharing, and other specialized sites, and a full ranking by Alexa-generated usage statistics. Get the full pdf report here - and see the excerpted Top 10 list below.

ANALYSIS: I spent the 1980s and ’90s in Silicon Valley (Palo Alto, San Jose, San Francisco), and in that time saw a couple of successive tech booms. Now Russia’s got a tech boom going, and I’m interested (only partly because I spent too many years in college & grad school studying Soviet affairs).

Top 10 Russian Web 2.0 Sites -

  • – a successful clone of Facebook. Vkontakte is the most visited site in Russia. It has over 13 million registered users.
  • is Russia’s leading mail portal, which has grown to include many other social networking features.
  • is Russia’s leading search engine, with additional services including email, news etc. The search engine is optimised for the morphology of Russian language.
  • has been sweeping Russia by storm. It is a simple tool to find schoolmates. Odnoklassniki is the fourth most visited site and has 18 million registered users.
  • is another very successful search engine. It offers services such as photo and video sharing, dating and games. It owns Russia’s most popular messenger / VoIP phone system ICQ.
  • is Russia’s leading website of personal blogs, but in reality it combines various online services including web mail, dating and file sharing.
  •, the US blogging site, has become a phenomenon in Russia, forming the most lively uncensored information portal. From journalists and government critics to pop singers and comedians, many well known personalities share their views on current events.
  • is Russia’s leading dating website, which claims to have 11 million registered users.
  • is Russian analog of YouTube, and despite rated by Alexa at the place number 36, has shown the highest level of visits amongst the independent video sharing sites with the exception of YouTube itself.
  • is a blogging site, which allows its users to form communities.

The country has a strong tech foundation, in most ways thanks to the Soviet-era Cold War brute emphasis on science and technology, resulting in Russian universities today graduating some 200,000 scientists and engineers each year. There are also 3,500 scientific research institutes, according to the BusinessWeek article last year, “Russia Bids to Become Tech Tiger“). The Russian government and judicial system appear to be getting more serious and sophisiticated in tech issues. For example, see last month’s “Russian Court Sentences Businessman for Microsoft Piracy,” which notes that “Clamping down on computer piracy is a demand of Russia’s negotiating partners for its WTO entry” and claims that piracy dropped 15 percent in 2007.

Microsoft Russia is working with new young partners, who are in many cases building Web 2.0 applications on Microsoft’s platforms because of their familiarity. In the past couple of years the number of Microsoft partners more than doubled, from 6,000 to 14,000 (and the Russian firm CDC has just been awarded a Microsoft “Partner of the Year” award for mobility solutions). Microsoft Russia has been increasing its ability to support and foster regional growth across the vastness of the country, nearly tripling its regional offices from 12 to 34 since 2004, from the industrialized western cities like St. Petersburg all the way to the new Siberian “Silicon Forest” in Novosibirsk and Akademgorodok.

And further upstream in the Russian tech river, Microsoft is working with the Russian Ministry of Education and three dozen other companies on a new project to develop technical-education software for 60,000 schools and their 12 million students. More Web 2.0 and 3.0 innovators for the future…

Oh, by the way - if you do speak Russian, rapidly growing Microsoft Russia is searching for a new leader. The highly regarded Olga Dergunova was recruited away by one of Europe’s largest banks, and the interim leader Birger Steen was interviewed this week by CNews Russian IT Review on the challenges of the highly competitive market for top leaders in Russia’s burgeoning tech industry. Birger even says he’d be willing to share responsibilities for a period - I’ve worked with him a bit, great guy. Govorit po-Russki?


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