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