Yandex focused on ya.ru as it heads for media exit in Russia Meczyki.Net

Meczyki.Net has learned that Russian search giant Yandex is to switch to ya.ru using yandex.ru as its main front page for Russian-speaking users – a less trafficked domain it has owned since 2000, Historically, only a basic search engine has hosted the page.

Imagine if Google decided to push google.com in favor of the less popular domain it also owns and you would get an idea of ​​how big a change this is for the Russian Internet landscape. (However, a complete comparison would be if Google News was the main page used to access its search engine and the company decided to emphasize the more minimal google.com search portal instead.)

We understand that the change is related to Yandex’s recent announcement that it is selling its key media products, news aggregator news and blogging recommendation platform Zen – a divestiture that follows the Kremlin’s decision to invade Ukraine.

The war has intensified censorship inside Russia that has made media ownership a far more politically risky business than ever before.

Yandex’s business is not sanctioned by the West, but two of its executions have been hit with EU sanctions in recent months after a critical analysis of its platform’s role in fueling Kremlin propaganda – hence the D-K on the company. There is pressure to find ways. Risk your ops by continuing to operate inside Russia. (So, for example, the recent update to its Maps product that simply erased national boundaries.)

Today a very subtly redesigned version of ya.ru has surfaced that adds a weather icon and a button that points visitors to other Yandex services.

Yandex has owned the ya.ru search engine page in parallel to the rich yandex.ru portal for decades, but the former has been left essentially untouched – while the latter is an eye-popping information for Russian-speaking users / Has developed into a publicity center. Integration of media products of Yandex.

The updated ya.ru page now includes the word ‘search’ – although inked in gray, which means it is barely visible – displayed above the search bar. And while the page still has yards of white space, there are subtle signs of revived interest in an underdeveloped domain. Although it is still far from the information-dense form of yandex.ru, where the content of the news aggregator attracts attention through a bottomless-scrolling feed.

A little ‘facelift’ ya.ru search page (screengrab: Natasha Lomas/Meczyki.Net)

When contacted about the changes in Ya.ru, a Yandex spokesperson confirmed the update, which they said is the first time this page has been updated in 22 years. He also said that more changes are coming – telling us: “We plan to redesign the ya.ru page and release a new mobile app. The focus will be on Search and the Yandex virtual assistant Alice. We will share the details later.”

The spokesperson declined to answer further questions, but sources familiar with the matter confirmed the changes to ya.ru related to the sale of News and Zen. Our sources also told us that Yandex plans to focus on ya.ru from here on – suggesting that the search engine page will become its main front page in Russia.

The change of focus – and what looks like a return to Yandex while emphasizing its tech roots – aligns with the company’s desire to move away from being regarded as a media company in its home market, which now includes all political and There are economic risks involved.

What this change means for the continued development of yandex.ru is not clear. But since the portal page of the same name hosts media products that Yandex is in the process of selling, it could signal another material change associated with the deal.

Back in April, the Russian tech giant agreed to sell two of its media products, News and Zen, to local social media giant VK. We understand that the final signing of the terms of the deal is expected early next month.

As we’ve reported earlier, it’s unclear how the operating terms of the deal will ultimately bode well – judging by how the media products are embedded on yandex.ru.

Yandex also agreed to corporate restructuring in 2019 This increased the control of the Kremlin’s trade. And given the key role of the yandex.ru homepage in propagating Kremlin propaganda domestically – as a result of the embedded news aggregator, which, in accordance with state Internet rules, is only able to link to licensed media sources, leading to Putin’s regime is allowed to use legal strictures. It is possible to envisage a system that enforces the terms for sale – to shape the domestic online news narrative.

Speaking to Meczyki.Net in April, Grigory Bakunov, a former deputy CTO at Yandex, explained how the company’s engineers had previously considered shutting down the news product as the Kremlin sought to increase its control over the online news narrative — but , ultimately, missed its opportunity to kill the product before the state completed a ‘virtual takeover’ of an algorithmic feed, in 2017, when it passed a law requiring news aggregators to only use state-approved sites as sources. Huh.