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Yandex shifts focus to ya.ru because it heads for media exit in Russia – TechCrunch


TechCrunch has discovered that Russia search large Yandex is to change from utilizing yandex.ru as its major entrance web page for Russian-speaking customers to ya.ru — a much less trafficked area it’s owned since 2000 that, traditionally, has solely hosted a fundamental search engine web page.

Think about if Google determined to de-emphasize google.com in favor of a much less widespread area it additionally owns and also you’ll get an inkling of how massive a shift this appears to be for the Russian Web panorama. (Albeit, a fuller comparability can be if Google Information was the principle web page used to achieve its search engine and the corporate determined to shift to emphasizing the extra minimalist google.com search portal as an alternative.)

We perceive the shift pertains to Yandex’s latest announcement that it’s promoting its flagship media merchandise, information aggregator Information and running a blog recommender platform Zen — a divestment that adopted arduous on the heels of the Kremlin’s determination to invade Ukraine.

The battle has led to a ramping up of censorship inside Russia that’s made media possession much more politically dangerous enterprise than it was.

Yandex’s enterprise hasn’t been sanctioned by the West however two of its execs have been hit with EU sanctions in latest months following vital evaluation of the function its platform performs in amplifying Kremlin propaganda — so the corporate stays beneath stress to search out methods to de-risk its ops whereas persevering with to function inside Russia. (Therefore, for instance, a latest replace to its Maps product that merely erased nationwide borders.)

At this time a really subtly redesigned model of ya.ru has emerged which provides a climate icon and a button pointing guests to different Yandex providers.

Yandex has owned the ya.ru search engine web page in parallel with the richer yandex.ru portal for many years however the former has been left basically untouched — whereas the latter developed into an eye-assaulting data/propaganda hub for Russian-speaking customers by way of the combination of Yandex’s media merchandise.

The up to date ya.ru web page now options the phrase ‘search’ — albeit inked in gray, that means it’s barely seen — displayed above the search bar. And whereas the web page nonetheless accommodates yards of white area there are refined indicators of revived curiosity in an underdeveloped area. Albeit it nonetheless stays a far cry from the information-dense look of yandex.ru the place content material from the Information aggregator saps consideration by way of a bottomless-scroll feed.

ya.ru redsign

The marginally ‘new look’ ya.ru search web page (Screengrab: Natasha Lomas/TechCrunch)

Contacted concerning the modifications to ya.ru, a Yandex spokesperson confirmed the replace, which they mentioned is the primary time the web page has been up to date in 22 years. In addition they mentioned extra modifications are coming — telling us: “We plan to revamp the ya.ru web page and launch a brand new cell app. The main focus will probably be on search and Yandex digital assistant Alice. We’ll share particulars later.”

The spokesperson declined to reply additional questions however sources aware of the matter confirmed the modifications to ya.ru relate to the sale of Information and Zen. Our sources additionally instructed us that Yandex plans to deal with ya.ru from right here on in — suggesting the search engine web page will grow to be its major entrance web page in Russia.

The shift of focus — and what appears like a return to Yandex emphasizing its technological roots — aligns with the corporate’s want to maneuver away from being perceived as a media firm in its house market, with all of the political and financial danger that now entails.

What this shift of emphasis means for continued improvement of yandex.ru isn’t clear. However for the reason that eponymous portal web page hosts media merchandise that Yandex is within the strategy of promoting it might augur a extra materials shift linked to the deal.

Again in April, the Russian tech large agreed to promote its two media merchandise, Information and Zen, to native social media large, VK. We perceive last sign-off on the deal phrases is anticipated early subsequent month.

As we’ve reported earlier than, it’s not clear how the operational phrases of the deal will lastly shake out — given how embedded the media merchandise are on yandex.ru.

Yandex additionally agreed to a company restructuring in 2019 that elevated Kremlin management over the enterprise. And given the important thing function the yandex.ru homepage performs in amplifying Kremlin propaganda domestically — on account of the embedded Information aggregator which, per state web guidelines, is just capable of hyperlink to licensed media sources, thereby permitting Putin’s regime to make use of authorized strictures to form the home on-line information narrative — it’s attainable to envisage the regime making use of circumstances to the sale.

Chatting with TechCrunch again in April, Grigory Bakunov, a former deputy CTO at Yandex recounted how engineers on the firm beforehand thought of shuttering the Information product because the Kremlin sought to extend its management over the net information narrative — however, finally, missed their alternative to kill the product earlier than the state accomplished a ‘digital takeover’ of the algorithmic feed, in 2017, when it handed a regulation that information aggregators might solely use state-approved websites as sources.

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