31 January 2010

Frosty Reception

A benefit of Moscow chill is the ability to ornate public places with ice sculptures.  The park visible from my apartment window is hosting a nice variety of these creations, and for some time now, thanks to the seeming permafrost.  At night, the sculptures become even more fantastic as they radiate neon colors and refract ambient light.  As it happens, Google is the sponsors of this frozen display.


I like Google; I just do not like Google in Russia.  My personal issue is that Google tries to be clever by a half when I use it here.  This otherwise magnificent internet engine localizes my experience; basically, when I attempt to connect to google.com, Google notices that I am contacting it from Russia and redirects me to google.ru (Google’s Russian site).  Here, I am forced to improve my Cyrillic reading skills as search results are presented in Russian.  I have memorized Google’s English menu options and click on the equivalent Russian links by remembering their locations.  Hey Google, if I wanted Google in Russian, I would just connect to google.ru directly, catch my drift?

My personal annoyances aside, Google has a bigger problem in Russia.  Despite its global might, Google is second fiddle to yandex.ru in this country.  Yandex diligently and cleverly copies Google’s functionality and presents a Russian-friendly interface to local users.  Yandex had the first-mover advantage in creating a localized experience and has thus garnered loyalty amongst Russian internet users.  Having realized this, Google  now is in a hyper-localization mode and is attempting to buy market share through public advertising, including billboards and sponsoring ice sculptures.  In this case, Google's icy critters embody Russia's 2009 zeitgeist - as captured by last year's top search trends.

My observations say that Google’s publicity stunts will have limited success in Russia.  Yandex has become as central to Russian’s internet experience as Google has become to American’s.  Russian friends send map and search links to me by leveraging Yandex exclusively.  When I reciprocate by using Google, I am nearly always told “let me show you a better way,” and that “better way” is invariably the Yandex way.

I am now at the risk of being shown data to the contrary by some Google product manager.  Dear Mr. Google product manager, my point is that you will have limited success with your Russia outreach attempts.  Yandex stole your thunder long ago and, basically, you are in for a frosty reception.

1 comment:

  1. So, does Yandex offer an english alternative, or (less useful) an english translation?

    Unlike yourself, I am no fan of Google. With absolute power comes the doing of no evil, I am told. But, I don't believe it. So I actively look for alternatives and use Google for only about 20% of my searches.