VK (social network)

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VK
Logo "VKontakte"
Web addressvk.com
Type of siteSocial networking service
RegistrationOpen to everyone.
Available language(s)70 languages
Users228 million[1]
OwnerDoraview Limited
Created byPavel Durov
Launched10 October 2006
RevenueIncrease $ 172 million (2012)[2]
Current statusActive
 
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VK
Logo "VKontakte"
Web addressvk.com
Type of siteSocial networking service
RegistrationOpen to everyone.
Available language(s)70 languages
Users228 million[1]
OwnerDoraview Limited
Created byPavel Durov
Launched10 October 2006
RevenueIncrease $ 172 million (2012)[2]
Current statusActive

VK (Originally VKontakte, Russian: ВКонтакте, literally "in contact") is the second biggest social network service in Europe after Facebook.[3] It is available in several languages, but particularly popular among Russian-speaking users around the world, especially in Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Belarus, and Israel. 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 23 (as of November 25, 2013) in Alexa's global Top 500 sites and is the second most visited website in Russia, after Yandex.[6] According to eBizMBA Rank, it is 8th most popular social networking site in the world.[7] As of January 2014 VK had an average of 55 million daily users.[8] In 2013, Mikhael Mirilashvili sold his 40% share in the company, receiving $1.12 billion for it from United Capital Partners.[citation needed]

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]

V Kontakte 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 and Lev Leviev (not from Africa-Israel Investments),[9] own 60%, 10% and 10% respectively.[10] The company is now completely owned by offshore firm Doraview Limited, based in the British Virgin Islands.[10] 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%.[11] Subsequently, the full ownership structure was published.[12]

The company is controlled by Pavel Durov, founder and CEO. 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 gives him 52% of the votes.[13][14]

VK canceled their IPO plans, citing unsatisfactory market conditions after Facebook's IPO blunder.[14][15]

Current shareholder structure as of 2011 is: 12% is owned by Vkontakte founder’s Pavel Durov, 8% by his partner Lev Leviev, and 40% by Vyacheslav Mirilashvili and members of his family. Mail.ru Group owns a 39,99% stake, having acquired 7.44% from Pavel Durov and other shareholders last month for $111.7 million.[10]

Website[edit]

Functionality[edit]

VK home page for a logged in user, September 2012
VK profile page, September 2012

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,[16] as well as a real-time news search.

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.[18] Another ruling early in 2012 went partially in favor of Gala Records, a recording studio, when the same court ordered VK to pay 7000$ for not being active enough in regard to copyrighted materials.[19]

Efforts against copyright infringement[edit]

VK is DMCA-compliant and offers a content removal tool for copyright holders.[20] Large-scale copyright holders may gain access to bulk content removal tools.[21]

Since 2010 VK has also entered several partnerships with legal content providers, such as television networks[22] and streaming providers.[23] Most notably, the Video on Demand provider IVI.ru, that has secured licensing rights with all of Hollywood majors in 2012.[24] These partnerships allow providers to remove user-uploaded content from VK and substitute it with legal embedded copies from the provider's site.[25] 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.[26]

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 Russian rapper Noize MC,[27] as well as international celebrities like Tiësto,[28] Shakira,[29] Paul Van Dyk,[30] The Prodigy[31] or Dan Balan.[32][33]

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.[34]

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.[35]

Italian controversy[edit]

On November 18, 2013, following an order from the Court of Rome, VK was completely blocked out in Italy. The reason for this was a complaint from Medusa Film, a company owned by Mediaset, a communications and media giant founded by Silvio Berlusconi and owned by his family, stating that VK was hosting a copy of one of its films. [36]

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.[37]

Popularity[edit]

According to Alexa Internet ranking, VK is one of the most visited websites in the post-Soviet countries. It holds the second position in Russia,[38] Ukraine[39] and Belarus,[40] and 3rd in Kazakhstan.[41]

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. ^ "Vk.com Traffic details". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  7. ^ "Top 15 Most Popular Social Networking Sites". eBizMBA. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  8. ^ "Site statistics for vkontakte.ru". Liveinternet. Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  9. ^ "Lev Leviev sells Russian social network stake". Globes. 2013-04-18. Retrieved 2013-08-24. 
  10. ^ a b c "Кто в контакте" (in Russian). Vedomosti. 2008-02-29. Retrieved 2011-04-16. 
  11. ^ "Exercise of Option". Mail.ru Group. 2011-07-14. Retrieved 2011-07-29. 
  12. ^ "Vkontakte.ru shareholder structure unveiled". East-West Digital News. 2011-08-06. Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  13. ^ "Shareholder Mail.ru Group yields control to founder". ewdn.com. Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  14. ^ a b Bowker, John (29 May 2012). "Russia's VKontakte delays IPO after Facebook debacle". Moscow: Reuters. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  15. ^ Lunden, Ingrid. "More FB IPO Fallout? Russia’s Leading Social Network Vkontakte’s IPO ‘Postponed Indefinitely’". TechCrunch. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  16. ^ http://vk.com/search
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "Russian court rules social network not responsible for user copyright violations". ewdn.com. 16 March 2011. Retrieved 17 September 2012. 
  19. ^ "Vkontakte.ru too "passive" with copyright infringement, says arbitration court". ewdn.com. 22 February 2012. 
  20. ^ "Copyright Violation Notification". Vk.com. Retrieved 2013-01-06. 
  21. ^ "TNT removes its videos from Vkontakte". Lenta.ru (in Russian). 10 November 2010. 
  22. ^ "CTC Media clamps down on piracy". ewdn.com. 20 June 2011. Retrieved 17 September 2012. 
  23. ^ "Vkontakte to relace pirated video with legal content". Lenta.ru. 25 November 2010. 
  24. ^ "Russian Online Video Service ivi.ru Inks Deals with Hollywood Majors". The Hollywood Reporter. 27 April 2012. 
  25. ^ "Interview with Oleg Tumanov, Ivi.ru CEO". RBC Daily (in Russian). 14 May 2012. 
  26. ^ Russian Facebook Not Responsible For Users’ Pirate Music Uploads
  27. ^ "Audio section at Noize MC's official page on VK.com". 
  28. ^ "DJ Tiesto's official page on VK.com". Retrieved 18 December 2012. 
  29. ^ "Shakira's official page on VK.com". Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  30. ^ "Paul Van Dyk's official page on VK.com". Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  31. ^ "The Prodigy official page on VK.com". Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  32. ^ "Dan Balan's official page on VK.com". Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  33. ^ http://vk.com/pages?oid=-2158488&p=Известные_люди_ВКонтакте
  34. ^ "Error blacklists Russia's top social network VKontakte". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-08-24. 
  35. ^ Balmforth, Tom (2013-05-28). "Russia's Top Social Network Under Fire". Rferl.org. Retrieved 2013-08-24. 
  36. ^ http://news.softpedia.com/news/How-Berlusconi-s-Company-Blocked-Off-vKontakte-and-File-Hosting-Sites-in-Italy-401518.shtml
  37. ^ "Ukrainin' Men: How American Men Are Using the Russian Facebook to Find Brides". Gawker.com. 2011-06-20. Retrieved 2013-08-24. 
  38. ^ "Alexa - top sites in Russia". Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  39. ^ "Alexa - top sites in Ukraine". Retrieved 2012-09-17. 
  40. ^ "Alexa - top sites in Belarus". Retrieved 2012-09-17. 
  41. ^ "Alexa - top sites in Kazakhstan". Retrieved 2012-09-17. 

External links[edit]