Web 2.0: Russians go... where?
Americans are lazy to study Russian. But they like to invest. These two things together give us a great opportunity to take money from them.
Our magazine doesn't have an English version yet. Shame on us! But now we dare experiment. This column by Alexey Andreyev, the chief editor of Webplanet.ru, is an open letter to Richard MacManus from Readwriteweb.com, who writes about "top Web apps in international markets". He already made such bulletins for Germany, Holland, Poland, Korea and United Kingdom (UK folks speak British English, it's a kinda foreign for Americans, too).
Anyway, last week Richard discovered Russian Web 2.0 market. By pure chance I suppose. In his article, he thanks two Russian guys, Alexander Dodonov and Anton Antich, for "all the information about Russian web apps".
Actually, I wouldn't interfere if not the word "market". I've seen many cases when the foreign language problem made people look ridiculous. I've been through some situations myself while abroad. But here is this market thing. The smell of new buzz, the next Web-bubble. Nowadays in Russia, it's just a smoke on the water. But everybody knows it will burn some little green papers this autumn. And the language problem will be the lighter.
So I was rude enough (oh those Russians!) to made this comment in Richard's blog, under the lucky number 13:
"For foreign folks: I bet you guys didn't get this joke at all! When the author of the review (Anton Antich from Microsoft) puts his own little "garage project" (Blogus) in the first place on the list, higher then some really huge community (Dirty) and the Russian web-search company number 1 (Yandex) - I wouldn't even call it "hidden marketing". No, no, nothing hidden at all! It's clear and really funny. Dear Richard MacManus! The fact is, many other Russians can speak and write English, too. Not only slaves of Microsoft. Next time, look better for reviewers. Don't make us ROTFL".
In his response, Richard MacManus told me he indeed doesn't speak Russian, so he's reliant on whoever responds to his callouts. He said it would've been great to get "more info on Yandex", and he invited me to "by all means" give him more info about the Russian market.
This is quite an ethic problem for me, Richard. Should I help the foreign market sharks to swallow our poor country the most effective way? Or it would be better to support some bubble story and steal their green paper before it burns in some other Russian's red right hand?
Ok, I'm gonna give up some national secrets. Just the part of it which is no secret at all. At least for Richard's advisors, Anton and Alexander, who however played quiet on it, for some unknown reason.
1) Blogus, the first project in Richard's list, is a weblog rating. Not a domestic blog engine, not a blog community, not a really wanted meta-service. Just another rating system, and a pretty conservative one, according to our expert. And no marketing model for Blogus presented so far.
On the other hand, we have LJPlus.ru for several years already. The Russian part of LiveJournal.com herd uses this meta-service very often, and the project makes real money. Not in the list? Too old and corrupt? Well, look at Jags.ru, a daily newspaper made of selected LiveJornals in several classic categories of news. It's a very simple toy. But man, there are many people who do like to get a simple daily page of good reading instead of crazy "tag clouds" (personally I think those who publish "tag clouds" on their title pages must be quizzed with some Turing / Philip Dick tests - are they human at all? I bet dogs bark on them cyborgs!)
2) Moikrug.ru, second place in Richard's list. A Dollie sheep of LinkedIn.com. Ok, it helps some people to find an old schoolmate or a new job. But don't you think a specialized community for a particular occupation would make it better? Something like E-xecutive.ru for managers or TourdomProfi for tour operators. Or even Eva.ru, if we take birth giving and childcare as a job (in fact, the most wanted occupation in modern Russia where people tend to die faster than to make kids).
I'd also mention Webby.ru, a side project of Headhunter.ru where people do hunt for heads, not for schoolmates (do you really want to meet all your schoolmates? Don't you hate most of them? Oh I'm sorry we don't have sororities here in Russia.)
3) Dirty.Ru is a popular entertainment community, indeed. But Russian culture is not about punk only. Aren't Damochka.ru and Neznakomka.ru more sexy? Isn't the humor of Overheard.ru more lambent? Doesn't "Samizdat" produce something closer to what we used to call "literature"?
4) Yandex is a big boss, sure. But mentioned is its blog search. Yandex does not provide its own platform for mass blogging (even though a couple of guys from Yandex built NPJ.ru in past, and this blog/wiki/workgroup open-source engine is better than LiveJournal in some features).
As to big guys of Russian Internet, Mail.Ru opened its own blog communities last autumn. And Rambler got its own bloggish Planet, too. It's strange to walk thru the zoo and miss such a couple of elephants. The other couple, Liveinternet.ru and Diary.ru, somehow got into Richard's list - but just in the end of it, in smaller letters, under "Other" subtitle.
I'd go through the rest of Richard's bulletin with extra examples and corrections (Vasily MTV Strelnikov is not a first Russian audio-blogger, for sure), but I think it's enough to see the gap in the picture. My goal is not to laugh off all the western marketing approaches to Russia, even though some ideas are dead funny, indeed ("social network for Russian billionaires selling Ferraris to each other"). But what I want to point out here is just the origin of my laugh.
The language gate, one-way drive. Most of educated Russians can read English, so we already know why women are better than Web 2.0. But Americans don't read Russian. They don't know what we know. So I suppose they'll continue publishing thier short-sighted reviews on international Web 2.0 market. "...And all, except Bokee and Toodou, are available in English, which goes to show how easily an online business anywhere in the world can go after the U.S. market", says Business 2.0 magazine being proud of the fact they manage to find ONE Russian project for their list - oh great, this site had English version, let's call it "Top/Hottest Russian App"!
And one more hint, Richard. You say you gonna write a review on Web 2.0 in China, too. You'd better study Chinese first. Serious. They Chinese make very strange things of Internet. Big things. When you try to call it "Web N.0", you'll have a big problem looking for a proper N.
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