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Russian state company launched own controversial search engine

May 23, 2014, 16:48 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© Screenshot of Sputnik search engine

MOSCOW, May 23. /ITAR-TASS/. The national search engine Sputnik aimed at helping people in their daily routine has been launched in Russia. Project architects have ambitious plans, while experts wonder whether it will be able to face competition from major national search engines. Runet users are rather sceptical.

Sputnik, developed by the state-owned Russian telecommunications company Rostelecom, has been launched in a beta version of limited functionality. The product available at sputnik.ru will operate in this testing regime without advertising until the year-end.

The new engine will focus on information necessary in day-to-day life. Besides usual search through news, maps, images and videos, Sputnik boasts services such as My Home providing information about facility managers and local hospitals, Medicines (descriptions of medicines and pharmacy search) and Convenient Russia (information about state services, about how to restore parental rights or driving license, buy a car, register with the local hospital, buy a flat or apply for its re-planning).

Sputnik will concentrate on state-related services. It will have no filter of sources aimed against the state policy and only provide usual protection against viruses and other threats. Search settings include moderate filtration on default that can be switched to softer or stricter regime, but no option of entire switch-off will be available.

The engine will follow certain algorithms, Rostelecom’s Vice President Alexei Basov told journalists, “It is important for us that the ‘schoolgirl’ query finds little girls in neat dresses, not something else.”

Basov dismissed rumors Sputnik could be installed at state institutions saying the project had market goals to be achieved with market means.

Sputnik is planned to become one of the top 10 Runet companies within four years. According to the TNS group’s research conducted in April, Yandex leads by daily traffic (more than 29 million) followed by Mail.ru Group (more than 26 million). Facebook visited by more than 3 million Russian a day concludes the top 10.

Sputnik provides local search - in Russia and at official state sites, the founder of LiveInternet German Klimenko is quoted by RBC daily as saying, so it can be even more relevant than Yandex or Google, but fares worse in other respects. Sputnik, he believes, can break through to the top ten if it becomes a multimedia portal.

Russia is now one of the few large markets, other being China and South Korea, where domestic web search is predominant. According to LiveInternet, Yandex, Google and Mail.ru accounted for 62%, 27.6% and 7.7% of the Russian search market respectively as of April 2014.

Russia has a total of about 30 search engines that were created but never made themselves known.

Head of the Ashmanov and Partners Internet marketing company Igor Ashmanov believes Sputnik should be a “clean” search engine without advertising and 18+ content, so that it can be installed on computers at schools, state institutions and public places. In that case, it will find several million users, the expert believes.

Scepticism abounds as well. A famous blogger Anton Nossik thinks it does not make sense to go along the 17-year path already made by Yandex as the latter can be adopted for correct search through state sites.

The media find few supporters of the new engine on the Runet - most are rather ironic and sarcastic.

“Why do we need it if we have a good Yandex service? Naturally, to filter content undesirable for the government,” user Rudi Durgalyan is quoted by Vedomosti daily as saying. They borrowed the idea of a closed state-owned search engine from China and used Bing design, he believes.

 

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