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03/12/2012 by

VKontakte: Social Network From Russia With Love

The reputation of Napoleon as undefeated military genius was severely shaken when he invaded Russia in 1812. Now, 200 years later Facebook is facing defeat against VKontakte, the social network from Russia with love.

Mark Zuckerberg Facebook  vs Paul Durov VKontakte

Mark Zuckerberg Facebook vs. Pavel Durov VKontakte

The Facebook Invasion
Just a few years ago, Facebook had rivals all across the world, but they conquered them in almost all markets. Except in the so called ‘red markets’ like Russia and China.

Will the almost undefeated social network genius Mark Zuckerberg face the same problems as Napoleon while trying to invade Russia?


The VZ Network in Germany. Hyves, the #1 social network by far in the Netherlands was vaporized. Even Google’s almighty Orkut in Brazil was taken hostage by powerful blue monster Facebook.

About VKontakte
Russia’s home-grown social network, VK (originally VKontakte and in Russian ВКонтакте) was founded in 2006, by internet entrepreneur Pavel Durov. The European social network is extremely popular among Russian-speaking users around the world.

Vkontakte-Pavel-Durov founder of the Russian Social Network

VK is especially popular in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Belarus, Israel and the USA. VK began very close in design and functionality to Facebook, but has since developed a distinctive look and feel.

VKontakte has over 140 million users and was recently ranked #28 in Alexa’s global Top 500 sites. Its founder Pavel Durov canceled VK’s IPO plans, citing unsatisfactory market conditions after Facebook’s IPO blunder.

The Social Web in Russia
According to comScore data, Russians are the most avid social media ‘junkies’ in the world. At 9.8 hours per month, they spend more than twice as much time on social media networks than the global average. And very loyal to their local sites.

In the animated gif below, you can see the world map of social networks from 2009 until May 2012. See how the battle of the giant social networks is developing across several continents, and how the world is turning blue.

social network map; facebook vs vkontakte animated gif

The Major Players in Russia
VKontakte is the powerful #1 social network in Russia. Other strong local web players are MoiMir, part of the platform, launched in 2007 and Odnoklassniki, also part of the platform and launched in 2006. Next comes Facebook in Russia.


My Opinion?
We know that Mark Zuckerberg is hunting for talents in Russia. But why I don’t expect that Facebook will be able to conquer VKontakte in 2013? I can give you the following reasons:

One. Facebook will have to recognize that its Russian rival has successfully found a way to provide local users with a local solution.

Two. Facebook will have to find a way to allow learn to adapt to cultural differences, rather than simply continuing to develop a platform for the masses, built top-down from California.

Three. Facebook’s dramatic IPO gave Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov the strategic choice to postpone the VK IPO.

Four. Facebook’s design is messy, VKontakte has a more Apple-alike design; minimalistic, intuitive and user friendly interface.

Five. The Russian people seem to be very loyal to their local pride VK. From Russia with love.

What About You?

Will Facebook be able to overtake VKontakte in 2013? We would love to hear your opinion in the comments below.

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Source: Wikipedia, comScore and dreamgrow.


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Comments (7)

  • Niclas Hellberg 04/12/2012, 01:13

    “Four. Facebook’s design is messy, VKontakte has a more Apple-alike design; minimalistic, intuitive and user friendly interface.”

    What? Which website did you have a look at? VKontakte is even messier than Facebook and looks like a social network 6 years ago. That’s definitely not an advantage for VK.

    • Hi Niclas

      Thanks for sharing! Have you seen the new design of VK? Agreed, messy, a copy for years, but now much slicker. Okay, it’s not the new MySpace yet.

      But what do you think? Will Facebook overtake VK?



    • Jhony Bravo 25/12/2012, 15:46

      >>VKontakte is even messier than Facebook

      LOL. Are you joking? VK is the clearest social service i have ever seen. And there is no annoying ads!

  • Laurens Bianchi 04/12/2012, 10:43

    I was introduced to VK back in 2007 by an Ukrainian colleague, the first thing that suprised me that it seemed like one big Facebook ripoff…

    Another interesting question: do you think VK wants to be bought by Facebook??

    • Hi Laurens

      Same here. It’ was indeed very close to a copy. Isn’t that how Zuck got Facebook? By ripping it off?

      I don’t think VK is aiming to be bought. I have seen Facebook acquiring other companies, but it strives to become #1 across all markets by itself.

      And VK might be a tough nut to crack coming year.


  • Anna Kuvarzina 11/12/2012, 18:14

    I am hoping to see Russia on Facebook… the sooner the better.

    I see Facebook pages as an amazing business tool – they just feel very professional yet personal. I am maintaining a family business page on Facebook in Russia, and lack of audience issue is so frustrating. Yet, the most progressive and fresh official Russian businesses choose Facebook (or at least it seems that is the case – I haven’t done much research on VK).

    I generally avoid VK, it seems like an amateur and unprofessional network to me and I would never want to come near it with my business page. I am Russian but live abroad and VK to me seems to confirm many stereotypes about Russia – especially piracy and alienation from the rest of the world. I would like to see Russia more open and international place and having Facebook instead of VK would definitely open the veil a little bit more and allow people to interact with the rest of the world.

    If I could help Facebook somehow, I really would.

    • Hi Anna, thanks for sharing your thoughts, really appreciated.

      Well, that is qa very clear opinion build by a lot of strong arguments. How loyal do you think the Russians (livinfg in Russia) are towards VK?

      What do you expect for 2013? Facebook to take over in Russia? Or will it take longer?