Yandex (Russian: Яндекс) is often known as “Russia’s Google.” However, while it started as a mere search engine, it has expanded into much more than that.
Arkadiy Volozh founded the company in 1999. At the time, he paid thousands of dollars for a four gigabyte (4 GB) hard drive to start the company’s public operations. Since then, it has grown explosively.
Yandex is now worth $12 billion. In 2011, it posted an initial public offering (IPO) of $1.3 billion. Its market share in Russia is unrivaled, with about 56.7% of the Russian search market, although Google has recently overtaken market lead specifically on cell phone searches. Yandex complained to Russian regulators that this was because Google’s Android system discriminated against other search services, favoring Google’s. Russian regulators sided with Yandex and Google has had to offer more built-in options, including Yandex, as search options in Russia.
Yandex claims to have 50 million users—out of a total of 87 million Russian internet users, in addition to a large number of users in other Russian-speaking countries. They have acquired this in large part because the Yandex system is better adapted to Russian morphology and at recognizing Russian words transliterated into Latin script. This means that Russian-language searches on Yandex, even if performed using poor spelling, mistaken grammatical usages, or done on a non-Cyrillic keyboard are still likely to yield the results the user expects. With greater local knowledge, searches for local businesses, local celebrities, and other common search terms, also yield more informative and focused results.
Not content to sit on its laurels, Yandex is pursuing aggressive growth. Like Google, it has generated a number of splinter projects beyond being a mere search engine. These projects include a machine learning library, street view maps (including from top of Mount Everest), and self-driving cars. Starting this year, it is entering Russia’s growing online shopping market as well with a massive project run in conjunction with Sberbank, Russia’s largest retail bank. They are also investing into education, establishing programing and mathmatics competitions in an effort to find bright new talent. Such moves show the ambition and vitality of a company many Westerners might not know too much about. Visitors to Russia are unlikely to remain ignorant for long—the Yandex logo is a common sight now in major cities – as the company also runs one of Russia’s largest taxi services and has armies of couriers running one of Russia’s largest food delivery services.
Above: Short video about Yandex and Toyota’s Everest Panorama project.
Above: Click to tour the outside of Yandex’s main campus in Moscow.