Russia Plans To Launch Sputnik Again -- This Time As A Search Engine

from the easier-said-than-done dept

Techdirt has been reporting for a while the efforts of the Russian government to bring the Internet there under control. It now seems that it is taking a new approach: as well as banning or criminalizing activities it doesn't like, it wants to compete with them directly. Specifically, it plans to fund a new Russian search engine, called "Sputnik", named after the first artificial satellite, put into space by the Russians in 1957. According to an article in the news magazine "Der Spiegel" (original in German), this is designed to address two problems at once.

The first is the risk that Russia's leading search engine, Yandex, might fall into hostile hands. Yandex currently holds 60% of the Russian search engine market, and makes a healthy $400 million profit on revenue of $1 billion, and so would be a tempting target for a take-over. The danger for the Russian government is that it might go to someone hostile to their policies. In fact, Yandex has already proved something of a thorn in the Russian government's side, since it has not only supported opposition figures on several occasions, but it has the habit of linking to foreign sites that contradict the official line.

That's the second problem that Sputnik is designed to solve. The hope seems to be that in time it will become one of the main sources of information for Russians when they go online, and allow the government to ensure that no inconvenient facts are served up when they search on sensitive subjects.

Of course, it's one thing to talk about launching a search engine that will take on Yandex and Google (which currently holds around 26% of the market), and quite another to deliver. As Techdirt reported back in 2006, similar plans by the French government to set up its own search engine soon fizzled out. The article in Der Spiegel talks of the Russian government providing around $20 million dollars to fund the new project, and notes that this seems far too little to take on Yandex with its 3,500 employees. As well as a large workforce, Yandex also has a healthy bank balance thanks to an earlier flotation on the New York Stock Exchange that brought it an extra $1.3 billion to bolster its already considerable resources.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 2:18am

    "NO, MACHINES SHOULD HAVE TO LIE TO REMAIN 'CORRECT', JUST LIKE US HUMANS DO"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 2:39am

    "this is designed to address two problems at once. "

    "this is designed to address two problems at once. "

    Then you say because it's because the existing one might be taken over.

    Then you say:

    "That's the second problem that Sputnik is designed to solve"

    So your saying

    "This is the first reason"

    THE REASON
    "this is the second reason"

    Then you reiterate the first reason, for the 3rd time !!

    What are the TWO reasons again ??
    So it appears to be only one reason, (or risk) framed twice !!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 2:41am

    it shows the lengths governments will go to just to have control of the people.

    so, how long before the same thing is announced as happening in the USA? it's trying to do the same as Russia, it just hasn't issued the orders yet!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 2:45am

    Re:

    You mean it's NOT happening in the USA?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 3:28am

    were these two "risks" stated in the original article ?? or is it a fabrication/speculation of this author ?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 3:54am

    Re:

    1. Yandex becomes hostile to the government. They are a free open source of information or mostly.
    2. Funnel information as much as possible.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 4:00am

    Re: "this is designed to address two problems at once. "

    Reading comprehension failing again AJ?

    1st: Yandex might fall in to foreign hands

    2nd: Yandex doesn't necessarily follow the ruling parties current propaganda and so turns up facts that contradict the governments 'facts'

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Oct 15th, 2013 @ 4:34am

    Re: Re:

    The US government doesn't bother with search engines(not yet anyway, they leave that to hollywood), they use the 'news' agencies to dictate what they want the citizenry to know and think.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 4:35am

    Re:

    No way! The western way is letting private companies start up, maybe with a little government support. If a company is successful, outcompetes the rest in the market and starts to be troubling for people in control, they will get hit with a law on thousands of pages and gradually the laws will bring the company closer to a public takeover... Creating a public company to outcompete enemies is far too expensive and inefficient today! In Europe you would see more willingness for state funding of search on account of Scroogle and F!uuu being owned by primarily US-based companies. In other areas like free video, there are decent competitors to Youtube to push.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Ninja (profile), Oct 15th, 2013 @ 4:58am

    In Soviet Russia...

    ... search engines search YOU.

    When life imitates meme?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 5:59am

    Hmm, use a censored propaganda search, or an uncensored free search?

    Hmm, I can't decide, use a censored search engine that doesn't let me read what the government doesn't like... or use a free market search engine that doesn't censor things...

    Tough choice...

    Oh what the heck, even I admit that as a liberal I'd rather watch news channels full of government propaganda from a government I don't like, rather then a free market Fox News propaganda news channel.

    But the problem for the Russian government, is that neither Yandex or Google are remotely close to looking like some evil partisan propaganda search engine trying to brainwash you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 6:05am

    Re: Hmm, use a censored propaganda search, or an uncensored free search?

    "Hmm, I can't decide, use a censored search engine that doesn't let me read what the government doesn't like... or use a free market search engine that doesn't censor things..."

    It's cute that you assume you'll have a choice.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    172pilot (profile), Oct 15th, 2013 @ 6:50am

    Re: When will we have one?

    That's what I was thinking, although our government has proven in the last 2 weeks that it can't write a website, so we probably don't have to worry about it for a while, although it wont be for a lack of trying (and spending our money on it!)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    172pilot (profile), Oct 15th, 2013 @ 6:54am

    Re: Hmm, use a censored propaganda search, or an uncensored free search?

    "I admit that as a liberal I'd rather watch news channels full of government propaganda from a government I don't like, rather then a free market Fox News propaganda news channel"

    WHAT? If you actually meant what you said, then that's refreshingly honest.. Admitting that "the other" stations are nothing but government propaganda... Now, unless you're intentionally ignoring the reality of the world, I don't know why you'd RATHER watch that than Fox News..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Kirion (profile), Oct 15th, 2013 @ 8:43am

    Wrong facts

    While pretty much everyone in russian internet community thinks that this will flop, the article is wrong on a few things.

    It's impossible to take over Yandex. State-owned Sberbank hold "golden share" and can block any acquisitions.

    It's actually not the Russian Government, but Rostelecom - state-owned telecom almost-monopoly.

    Also, fun fact. The VP of Rostelecom, responsible for this project - Alexey Basov is a former founder of Begun, one of the first contextual advertising startups in the world, that Google tried to buy in 2008. The deal was blocked by Russian anti-monopoly commission.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    Sheogorath (profile), Oct 15th, 2013 @ 11:22am

    My prediction

    Now: "Welcome to Sputnik, the [redacted] search engine that won't link to [redacted], [redacted] porn, or other such nastiness."
    Six months later: "Why in the world is Sputnik failing so miserably?"
    (The redacted words are censored, torrents, and gay, in that order.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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