Arkady Volozh: “We became the first country where competition was restored on the Android operating system”
On the technology market, Yandex is quite successful, especially by Russian standards: in May 2011, the company placed its papers in New York and raised $ 1.3 billion. In June 2014, it was registered on the Moscow Stock Exchange, and in recent years opened offices in China, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Turkey.Photo Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr. / Bloomberg via Getty Images
The correspondent of Vedomosti talked for a
long time with the founder and CEO of Yandex, Arkady Volozh, about the consequences of the conflict with Google, about development plans, about the company's problems in Ukraine and much more. Geektimes leads the most interesting quotes from the interview.
Support domestic manufacturer
Mr. Volozh believes that his company should be considered as a Russian alternative to Google.
The possibility of at least some alternative is based on several things: the system of recreation and training of talents already at the school level is necessary, constant maintenance of the creative environment in the country and in the company is needed, clearly working mass production processes are important and, of course, free access channels to the user . Here we have problems with the latter. If we had not achieved a settlement through the FAS, it is possible that at some point, “Yandex” would simply not be gone. And from this, I think, the world would become worse.
After the fight, fists do not wave
The struggle of Yandex with its main competitor, Google, continued for almost three years. The Russian search engine began to rapidly lose market share: people began to use smartphones more often. At that time, Google already held strong positions in the mobile segment of the RuNet. Yandex complained to the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, stating that Google prohibits smartphone manufacturers from pre-installing its services and imposing their own.
First, specifically for Russia, the search engine selection screen was removed: Google left it in those countries where it did not have a strong competitor. Then, against the background of the growing spread of Android, the situation has become even more acute. When Google was already not only the most popular browser, but also the most popular operating system, the company began to set conditions for device manufacturers to pre-install only their own services, and under certain conditions to directly prohibit the pre-installation of competitors' services. It was not just illegal, but also dishonest.
As a result, Google has been declared a violator. The company entered into a settlement agreement with FAS and promised to no longer violate the rules of fair competition.
I rate this agreement as a historic breakthrough. This is a global precedent, we became the first country where competition was restored on the Android operating system. Since Android dominates the mobile environment, and the mobile environment now dominates the entire Internet, this is a very important victory in a very important place.
You can call me an idealist, it’s not for me to judge this, but it seems to me that Google’s leaders have revised their positions. Pessimists will say that they simply considered and decided that it was cheaper to negotiate with us. But I want to believe that they have returned to their previous principles: to build a business based on morality.
Whose search is better
Of course ours! And although inside we are accustomed to scolding ourselves, to find flaws and points for development, but by many objective parameters, I consider our product to be the best on the market. The base of documents in the search in our markets is bigger and fresher. We find more facts, and they are more accurate. Inquiries we suggest better, and then we better guess the answers.
We recognize the voice in our languages better. Our maps are fresh, the weather forecast is more accurate. We have a lot of specialized searches, sharpened just for our markets, ranging from goods and video to music.
Our share on computers, where the situation is more competitive, has been stably strong for many years and has even grown a bit. Now it is around 65%. In those mobile environments where Yandex is pre-installed by default, we have more than 80% share.
In general, if you want to search in Russian and get the most correct results, you cannot do without Yandex today.
On creating your own mobile OS and competition
This is impossible for a local company [and Yandex is just that]. A mobile operating system, like any platform, is an ecosystem that tends towards natural monopoly. It is beneficial for everyone that such a platform is common for everyone: for iron producers, for service sellers, and for developers. For example, companies developing mobile software, just expensive to port it to multiple platforms. You can write your own OSes, but you can not force 1.5 million development companies to write versions of their software also for your platform. Everyone needs a single standard.
We don’t want Google to be replaced by Yandex everywhere. We are for competition. Only in competition can quality and development be ensured.
Therefore, we fully support the decision approved by the court [in the Google case], where there are selection screens, and not a pre-installation of “Yandex”. When you launch a new phone in Russia, the user will have a screen with a list of two or three search engines among the dozen other installation screens - and everyone will be able to choose what he wants to use. Everything.
What plans to make "Yandex"
We have long been not only a search company, we have a big business Yandex.Taxi, we have a Yandex.Market. But I want to start exactly with the search.
Search application "Yandex" is getting smarter day by day. Imagine that you can go to a flower, take a picture of it, immediately get its name in Russian or Latin, and then translate it into any of the 90 languages that are in the translator. Then a voice will pronounce this word in some German or elvish language, and so on. All this is already working or is about to appear.
Today, the main money brings us search and advertising. But this is temporary, we are now amazingly growing new directions. I think our taxi or e-commerce services in the future will be quite comparable in size to our advertising business. “Yandex.Market” after certain steps can surpass even search in terms of business size.
Taxi, Taxi, Carry, Carry
Yandex.Taxi is the fastest growing business. It began in 2010 as a small experiment of one young manager. The manager was supported by experienced comrades, and the service gradually began. Although not immediately. In 2012, it almost even closed.
For the second year, Yandex.Taxi is a separate company. While it is funded by "Yandex". But so far, at any time, external investors may also come there. Yandex.Taxi is already making a profit in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
In Moscow, two-thirds of taxi calls are made via an application on a smartphone (about 60% of them are Yandex.Taxi). This market is still growing 4–5 times a year in terms of the number of trips and will grow several times over. Plus, a taxi goes to new territories much more actively than the search Yandex does. For example, a taxi operates in the Transcaucasian countries, where “Yandex” is rarely heard, but this does not prevent our taxi service from being popular.
About neural networks, service Prisma, Picasso and Van Gogh
This is not our topic ... Well ... probably because we are strange, closed introverts (laughs).
In fact, I think this is because the company is now at a more adult stage, or something. Not small jokes give birth to us, but something that shifts some big walls creates new markets.
Here is an example from the same area: an application that creates pictures in the style of other pictures. This is also about neural networks. We thought that the pictures can not only be stylized "under Van Gogh" or "under Picasso." If you explain to an automaton what a “good”, “quality” picture is, then it will be able to draw all the bad pictures “in the style of good pictures” - for example, to make blurry pictures clear.
And since we are indexing the entire web, in which billions of very different pictures, we conducted a small experiment. We showed the car examples of the same pictures, but in different resolutions. Only we have a little deceived the car, saying that people make high-resolution pictures out of fuzzy pictures. In fact, of course, the opposite. And the car believed and learned to improve the resolution of weak images.
It would seem nothing special. But we have found a serious application of this technology - in this way we began to improve the quality of digital satellite maps. The fact is that high resolution maps are very expensive. You can buy cards of average quality and teach the car to make these cards, as it were, in the best resolution.
It turns out that experiments that are small at first glance actually influence the economics of satellite cartography. This is not as cool as a mass application, but brings much more creative satisfaction.
Retail trade in goods is a huge business, and the share of online trading in Russia is still very small - 4%, there is room for growth here. For comparison: in China it is 16%, in the USA - 10%. It is logical to assume that 30-50% of this market will sooner or later become online.
“Yandex.Market” historically stood on two pillars: the choice of model and price comparison, and in this he had no equal. But in 15 years it has ceased to be unique, and we will do something new.
There is a lot of room for improvement in this area: from the automation of simple logistic processes to the smarter things that we are now actively engaged in. Different tasks with the use of machine intelligence are very appropriate there - to advise something, for example. Now the tips are very monosyllabic, we must make them much smarter.
But we need to start by building basic offline processes, which we simply didn’t have before in Yandex.Market. We have always avoided this, trying not to disturb the established ecosystem. But now the situation has been blown up, the former ecosystem no longer exists, new players have entered the market. And our product will be rebuilt under the new realities.
On the problems of the company in Ukraine
Our absolute goal is useful services for users. As a food technology company, we always focus on that. In each country of presence, we take into account all the features of the market and try to be as law-abiding as possible. Similarly, we behaved in the Ukrainian market.
Each country has the right to introduce its own rules of work in the market. And businesses just have to act on them or not to enter the market at all. We see it in any country where we work - Turkey, Russia, Europe ... Everything that has just happened to the Ukrainian market, has happened on absolutely level ground.
It is unfortunate that contrived conspiracy theories affect the adoption of such decisions. We have built our services for more than 10 years, all the time investing in Ukraine. Just started to make a profit.
We hear: they say, it is not scary, we will have other similar services built for us. Let's take a sober look at the situation. We see (measure) the quality of services in non-competitive markets. After three years in the absence of competition, no one will deal specifically with Ukraine. The quality of absolutely all Internet in Ukraine is degrading very quickly. And ordinary users will begin to feel it very soon. There will be not only a good search, or a taxi, or maps. There will be no trifles: there will be no schedules of cinemas or electric trains.
The countries on the border of two worlds have a choice: to be a bridge or to be a fence. My life was such that I have to live in different countries. Therefore, I do not like fences.
About entering new markets
We will not go out with a search for anything else unless the anti-competitive practices in the world change. If there are changes, we'll see. Perhaps we will go with the "Taxi", with some applications. So far, the most successful of our non-Russian experience are "Maps" and "Navigator" in Turkey. This popular product turned out, beloved and the most popular in its niche.
On the development of online advertising
Advertising technologies on the Internet are changing literally before our eyes. Previously, everywhere, even in the network, everyone operated on the concepts of the target audience, which was determined mainly by sex, age, geography and, perhaps, social status. Everything.
These few signs are the maximum that a person can operate with. It was the universal language of the industry. Advertisers in these poor terms communicated with agencies, agencies with sites (“I want middle-aged men from big cities,” “yes, yes, our newspaper is just for men”).
But there were technologies that allow you to take into account much more factors, show less advertising, but bring in more buyers. Because now the approach to advertising is completely different: the car helps to understand who actually buys the product and where to place the ad in order for it to really happen. The car has 400,000 user classes, we have so many words in the language, just to name them.
I believe that in our country a unique mathematical school was and is. And mathematics is increasingly becoming part of everyday life.
Therefore, often knowledge of mathematics becomes more important, for example, the ability to process materials. And if historically we have not developed materials (we are not leaders, “everything you do is awful” and so on), then with math we have a chance to break through and be competitive - to be useful in our country, and really want to hope for the whole world.
There is a second aspect. We steadily go to the creation of artificial intelligence. Today it is a neural network, tomorrow - another kind of algorithms. And all this naturally tends towards centralization. The more data they learn, the smarter the neural network. More data - better algorithms - more data. And, of course, remembering science fiction novels read as a child, I personally worry at the thought that such a system will not have an alternative. Perhaps we are one of these necessary alternatives. That is why the existence of such a company as Yandex, I consider it an absolute imperative.