Yandex Faces a Possible Challenge in Search

October 11, 2013

I read “Russia Plans State-Backed Web Search Engine Named after Sputnik: Report.” New search engines are not news. Most of the come along with a news release and then disappear. Some linger in a weird online-but-no-visibility mode for years.

The write up reveals an alleged search engine initiative from Rostelecom, a telecom with backing from the Russian government. the source for Reuters is an article in another newspaper. I don’t know how much of the information is accurate at this time.

The idea is not a new one. Several years ago the European Community put some money into a Google alternative. I am not sure what happened to that initiative, but I think user behaviors are tough to change.

The write up includes a remarkable “factoid” from an analyst/expert. Here’s the passage I found amusing:

Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts said in a note that developing high-quality search technology may require the best talent and long research and development and that the quality of search results may be well below that of leading firms. “Even if the launch of Sputnik is well-executed, we do not expect it could significantly eat into the market shares of Yandex or Google,” the Merrill Lynch analysts wrote.

Enough of my self-indulgent comments about the nature of “real” journalism.

Let’s assume that Russia wants its own search engine. Several questions struck me as potentially interesting:

  • What’s up with Yandex? If I were looking for a decent search engine, why not tap Yandex the way the original leveraged Inktomi in 2000?
  • Is the initiative an indication that the notion of a free and open Internet is going to be given a bit of Stalinesque revisionism? My hunch is that the answer is, “Yes.” I just don’t have any current information on the concern the wild world of electronic information causes in Russia.
  • How much money will Russia pump into the venture? Search is darned expensive, and some pretty big outfits have pumped money without end into search only to end up as a flop.

Interesting development. Too bad the write up did not include some reference to Jike, the Chinese search system. Jike may have some useful lessons to offer.

Stephen E Arnold, October 11, 2013


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