VK (social network)

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VK
Logo VK.com
Web address vk.com
Type of site Social networking service
Registration Requires mobile phone or a desktop browser access
Available in 70 languages
Users 265 million[1]
Owner Doraview Limited
Created by Pavel Durov
Launched 10 October 2006
Revenue Increase $ 172 million (2012)[2]
Current status Active

VK (originally VKontakte, Russian: ВКонтакте, literally "in touch") is the largest social network service in Europe.[3] It is available in several languages, but particularly popular among Russian-speaking users around the world, especially in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine. Like other social networks, VK allows users to message contacts publicly or privately, create groups, public pages and events, share and tag images, audio and video, and play browser-based games.[4]

As of January 2014, VK had at least 239 million accounts.[5] VK is ranked 8 (as of August 1, 2014)[6] in Alexa's global Top 500 sites and is the second most visited website in Russia, after Yandex.[7] According to eBizMBA Rank, it is 8th most popular social networking site in the world.[8] As of January 2014 VK had an average of 55 million daily users.[9]

In 2013, Mirilashvili family sold his 40% share in the company, receiving $1.12 billion for it from United Capital Partners,[10] while Lev Leviev sold his 8% share in the same deal, giving United Capital Partners 48% ownership. In January 2014, VK's founder Pavel Durov sold his 12% stake in the company to the CEO of Megafon, which is controlled by Alisher Usmanov. Following the deal, Usmanov and his allies control around 52% of the company.[11] Shortly thereafter, the CEO of Megafon, sold his 12% stake to Mail.ru, thus allowing mail.ru to consolidate their controlling stake of 52% in VK.[12]

History[edit]

Pavel Durov, the founder of VKontakte, on his 26th birthday, 10 October 2010.

Founder Pavel Durov launched VKontakte for beta testing in September 2006, having just graduated from St Petersburg State University. The following month, the domain name vkontakte.ru was registered. User registration was initially limited to within university circles exclusively by invitation, but the site still grew quickly. In February 2007 the site reached a user base of over 100,000 and was recognized as the second largest player in Russia's nascent social network market. In the same month the site was subjected to a severe DDoS attack, which briefly put it offline. The user base reached 1 million in July 2007, and 10 million in April 2008. In December 2008 VK overtook rival Odnoklassniki as Russia's most popular social networking service.

Company[edit]

VKontakte was incorporated on 19 January 2007 as a Russian limited liability company. Founder and CEO Pavel Durov owns 20% of shares (although he has majority voting power through proxy votes), and a trio of Russian investors, Vyacheslav Mirilashvili ( Mikhael Mirilashvili's son) and Lev Leviev (not from Africa-Israel Investments),[13] own 60%, 10% and 10% respectively.[14] The company is now completely owned by offshore firm Doraview Limited, based in the British Virgin Islands.[14] The full current ownership is not in the public domain, although Mail.ru Group (formerly Digital Sky Technologies) has publicly acknowledged a stake of 39.99%.[15] Subsequently, the full ownership structure was published.[16] On 29 May 2012 Mail.ru Group announced that it has decided to yield control of the company to Durov by offering him the voting rights on its shares. Combined with Durov's personal 12% stake, this gave him 52% of the votes.[17][18] In April 2013, United Capital Partners bought 48% of VK shares from Vyacheslav Mirilashvili and Lev Leviev for $1.12 billion.[19] In 2014 Pavel Durov sold his 12% stake to Ivan Tavrin, the CEO of Russian mobile phone operator Megafon.[20] In April 2014 Durov stated he had sold his stake in the company after "coming under increasing pressure" from the Russian Federal Security Service to hand over personal details of users who were members of a VK group dedicated to the Euromaidan protest movement.[21]

VK canceled their IPO plans, citing unsatisfactory market conditions after Facebook's IPO blunder.[18][22]

Website[edit]

Functionality[edit]

As with most social networks, the site's core functionality is based around private messaging and sharing photos, status updates and links with friends. VK also has tools for managing online communities and celebrity pages. The site allows its users to upload, search and stream media content, such as videos and music. VK features an advanced search engine, that allows complex queries for finding friends,[23] as well as a real-time news search.

  • Messaging. VK Private Messages can be exchanged between groups of 2 to 30 people. An email address can also be specified as the recipient. Each message may contain up to 10 attachments: Photos, Videos, Audio Files, Maps (an embedded map with a manually placed marker) and Documents.[24]
  • News. VK users can post on their profile walls, each post may contain up to 10 attachments – media files, maps and documents (see above). User mentions and hashtags are supported. In case of multiple photo-attachments the previews are automatically scaled and arranged in a magazine-style layout. The news feed can be switched between all news (default) and most interesting modes. The site features a news-recommendation engine, global real-time search and individual search for posts and comments on specific users' walls.
  • Communities. VK features two types of communities. Groups are better suited for decentralised communities (discussion-boards, wiki-style articles, editable by all members etc.). Public pages are a news feed oriented broadcasting tool for celebrities and businesses. The two types are largely interchangeable, the main difference being in the default settings.
  • Like buttons. VK like buttons for posts, comments, media and external sites operate in a different way from Facebook. Liked content doesn't get automatically pushed to the user's wall, but is saved in the (private) Favorites section instead. The user has to press a second 'share with friends' button to share an item on their wall.
  • Privacy. Users can control the availability of their content within the network and on the Internet. Blanket and granular privacy settings are available for pages and individual content.

Languages[edit]

As of October 2012 the site features 3 official languages (English, Russian and Ukrainian) as well unofficial user-generated translations into 70 more languages. Advertisements are only shown in the Russian and Ukrainian versions.

  • Russian-speaking users can choose between the standard Russian version and two extras: a Soviet version and a Pre-Revolutionary version. Other than language tweaks (e.g. telegrams for messages and comrades for friends) these versions contain other easter eggs. For example, all private messages in the Soviet version have a stamp saying 'passed server censorship'. The pre-revolutionary version uses old-style Russian orthography. Both extra versions are also ad-free.

Issues[edit]

Copyright issues[edit]

Litigation[edit]

In 2008 the leading Russian television channel RTR sued VK (then Vkontakte) over unlicensed copies of two of its films, uploaded by VK users. In 2010 this dispute was settled by the Russian Supreme Arbitration Court in favor of the social network. The court ruled that VK is not responsible for its users’ copyright violations, taking into account that both parties agreed with the technical possibility to identify the user who posted illegal content and who, consequently, must incur the liability.[25] Another ruling early in 2012 went partially in favor of Gala Records (now Warner Music Russia), a recording studio, when the same court ordered VK to pay $7000 for not being active enough in regard to copyrighted materials.[26]

Efforts against copyright infringement[edit]

VK is DMCA-compliant and offers a content removal tool for copyright holders.[27][not in citation given] Large-scale copyright holders may gain access to bulk content removal tools.[28]

Since 2010 VK has also entered several partnerships with legal content providers, such as television networks[29] and streaming providers.[30] Most notably, the Video on Demand provider IVI.ru, that has secured licensing rights with all of Hollywood majors in 2012.[31] These partnerships allow providers to remove user-uploaded content from VK and substitute it with legal embedded copies from the provider's site.[32] This legal content can be either ad-sponsored, subscription based or free, depending on the provider's choices. VK does not display its own advertising in the site's music or video sections, nor in the videos themselves. On October 2013, VKontakte was cleared of copyright infringement charges by a court in Saint Petersburg. The judge ruled that the social network is not responsible for the content uploaded by its users.[33]

DDoS attacks on sites[edit]

Because the social network is the one most popular and highloaded sites in runet its visits can be used to make DDoS attacks on smaller sites. VK performed DDOS attacks on certain sites, making user's browser send multiple requests to the target site without user's consent. The targets were Runet Prize voting page in 2008[34] and CAPTCHA-solving service antigate.com in 2012.[35][36] This was done inserting an iframe and a piece of JavaScript code which periodically reloaded the iframe. As a countermeasure antigate was detecting wheither iframe was loaded from vk and if it were antigate had redirected request to xHamster, a well-known porn site, so vk had to stop the attack because the site is widely used by children. VK tried to use XMLHttpRequest to solve this problem, but have forgot about same-origin policy. Then they have stopped the attack though there were many ways to solve the problem with redirect.

Promotional use by bands and musicians[edit]

Musicians that use VK for promotion often upload their own tracks to their official VK pages. Notable examples include the international celebrities like Tiësto,[37] Shakira,[38] Paul Van Dyk,[39] The Prodigy[40] or Dan Balan.[41][42]

Blacklisted[edit]

On May 24, 2013, it was reported in the media that the site had been mistakenly put on a list of websites banned by the Russian government.[43]

Some critics have accused the blacklist of being simply the latest in a series of suspicious incidents to have happened to the website in recent months, as the Russian government look to increase their stake in, and control of the site.[44]

Italian controversy[edit]

On November 18, 2013, following an order from the Court of Rome, VK was blocked in Italy after a complaint from Medusa Film stating that VK was hosting an illegal copy of one of its films.[45]

Founder Pavel Durov dismissal[edit]

Founder Pavel Durov was dismissed as CEO in April 2014 after he had failed to retract a (according to himself) prank April fools letter of resignation.[21] Durov then claimed the company had been effectively taken over by Vladimir Putin allies,[21][46][47] and suggested his ousting was the result of his refusal to hand over personal details of users to the Russian Federal Security Service and his refusal to shut down a VK group dedicated to anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny.[21][47]

In the media[edit]

On Gawker, Adrien Chen wrote an article about the growing popularity of Vkontakte among American men to try to find Russian girls.[48]

Popularity[edit]

According to Alexa Internet ranking, VK is one of the most visited websites in the post-Soviet countries. It holds:

Profile privacy policy[edit]

After submitting profile deletion, you have to wait 210 days to complete submission.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Каталог пользователей ВКонтакте". VK.com. Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  2. ^ "30 top Russian Internet companies according to Forbes Russia". forbes.ru. Retrieved February 27, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Europe Internet Usage Stats Facebook Subscribers and Population Statistics". Internetworldstats.com. Retrieved 2013-08-24. 
  4. ^ Social Gaming Revenue in Russia: Statistics and Forecast, SuperData, 2011.
  5. ^ "List of VK users". Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  6. ^ http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/social-networking-websites 8 in World
  7. ^ "Vk.com Traffic details". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  8. ^ "Top 15 Most Popular Social Networking Sites". eBizMBA. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  9. ^ "Site statistics for vkontakte.ru". Liveinternet. Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  10. ^ The richest Israelis got NIS 10 billion richer in 2013 By Eytan Avriel, Jun. 5, 2013, Haaretz
  11. ^ Maria Kiselyova. "Usmanov tightens hold on Russian social net VKontakte as founder sells stake". The West Australian (Reuters). Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  12. ^ Olga Razumovskaya. "Mail.Ru Secures Control of VKontakte". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  13. ^ "Lev Leviev sells Russian social network stake". Globes. 2013-04-18. Retrieved 2013-08-24. 
  14. ^ a b "Кто в контакте" (in Russian). Vedomosti. 2008-02-29. Retrieved 2011-04-16. 
  15. ^ "Exercise of Option". Mail.ru Group. 2011-07-14. Retrieved 2011-07-29. 
  16. ^ "Vkontakte.ru shareholder structure unveiled". East-West Digital News. 2011-08-06. Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  17. ^ "Shareholder Mail.ru Group yields control to founder". ewdn.com. Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  18. ^ a b Bowker, John (29 May 2012). "Russia's VKontakte delays IPO after Facebook debacle". Moscow: Reuters. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  19. ^ "UCP closes deal to buy 48% of Vkontakte from Mirilashvili, Leviev", interfax 
  20. ^ Usmanov tightens hold on Russian social net VKontakte as founder sells stake 
  21. ^ a b c d Vkontakte Founder Pavel Durov Learns He's Been Fired Through Media, The Moscow Times (22 April 2014)
  22. ^ Lunden, Ingrid. "More FB IPO Fallout? Russia’s Leading Social Network Vkontakte’s IPO ‘Postponed Indefinitely’". TechCrunch. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  23. ^ http://vk.com/search
  24. ^ Supported are the formats: doc, docx, xls, xlsx, ppt , pptx, rtf, pdf, png, jpg, gif, psd, mp3, djvu, fb2, ps and archives containing these formats. Executable files and files over 200 Mb are not allowed.
  25. ^ "Russian court rules social network not responsible for user copyright violations". ewdn.com. 16 March 2011. Retrieved 17 September 2012. 
  26. ^ "Vkontakte.ru too "passive" with copyright infringement, says arbitration court". ewdn.com. 22 February 2012. 
  27. ^ "Copyright Violation Notification". Vk.com. Retrieved 2013-01-06. 
  28. ^ "TNT removes its videos from Vkontakte". Lenta.ru (in Russian). 10 November 2010. 
  29. ^ "CTC Media clamps down on piracy". ewdn.com. 20 June 2011. Retrieved 17 September 2012. 
  30. ^ "Vkontakte to replace pirated video with legal content". Lenta.ru. 25 November 2010. 
  31. ^ "Russian Online Video Service ivi.ru Inks Deals with Hollywood Majors". The Hollywood Reporter. 27 April 2012. 
  32. ^ "Interview with Oleg Tumanov, Ivi.ru CEO". RBC Daily (in Russian). 14 May 2012. 
  33. ^ Andy (2013-10-26). "Russian Facebook Not Responsible For Users’ Pirate Music Uploads". Torrentfreak.com. Retrieved 2014-06-21. 
  34. ^ http://habrahabr.ru/post/43171
  35. ^ http://www.securitylab.ru/news/423743.php
  36. ^ http://habrahabr.ru/post/142836
  37. ^ "DJ Tiesto's official page on VK.com". Retrieved 18 December 2012. 
  38. ^ "Shakira's official page on VK.com". Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  39. ^ "Paul Van Dyk's official page on VK.com". Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  40. ^ "The Prodigy official page on VK.com". Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  41. ^ "Dan Balan's official page on VK.com". Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  42. ^ http://vk.com/pages?oid=-2158488&p=Известные_люди_ВКонтакте
  43. ^ "Error blacklists Russia's top social network VKontakte". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-08-24. 
  44. ^ Balmforth, Tom (2013-05-28). "Russia's Top Social Network Under Fire". Rferl.org. Retrieved 2013-08-24. 
  45. ^ "How Berlusconi's Company Blocked Off vKontakte and File-Hosting Sites in Italy". News.softpedia.com. Retrieved 2014-06-21. 
  46. ^ Russia's largest social network is under the control of Putin's allies, founder saysThe Verge
  47. ^ a b Pavel Durov left Russia after being pushed out, The Economic Times (22 April 2014)
  48. ^ "Ukrainin' Men: How American Men Are Using the Russian Facebook to Find Brides". Gawker.com. 2011-06-20. Retrieved 2013-08-24. 
  49. ^ "Alexa - top sites in Belarus". Retrieved 2014-06-25. 
  50. ^ "Alexa - top sites in Russia". Retrieved 2014-06-25. 
  51. ^ "Alexa - top sites in Ukraine". Retrieved 2014-06-25. 
  52. ^ "Alexa - top sites in Kazakhstan". Retrieved 2014-06-25. 

External links[edit]