VK (social networking)
Type of site
|Social networking service|
|Available in||83 languages|
|Created by||Pavel Durov|
|Revenue||RUB121.4 million (2013)|
|Alexa rank||14 (November 2016)|
|Launched||October 10, 2006|
VK (VKontakte; Russian: ВКонта́кте, meaning InContact) is the largest European online social networking service, based in Russia. It is available in several languages, and is especially popular among Russian-speaking users. VK allows users to message each other publicly or privately, to create groups, public pages and events, share and tag images, audio and video, and to play browser-based games.
As of June 2016, VK had at least 369 million accounts. VK is ranked 14 (as of November 2016) in Alexa's global Top 500 sites. It is the second most popular website in Russia, behind Yandex. According to SimilarWeb, VK is the 4th most popular website in the world. As of October 2016, VK ranked as the second most popular social networking website in Israel, after Facebook.
2006–2008: launch and rapid growth
VKontakte was incorporated on 19 January 2007 as a Russian limited liability company. 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.
2009–2012: public access
Founder and CEO Pavel Durov owned 20% of shares (although he had majority voting power through proxy votes), and a trio of Russian-Israeli investors, Vyacheslav Mirilashvili (Mikhael Mirilashvili's son) and Lev Leviev, owned 60%, 10% and 10% respectively. The original founders then sold a stake of 39.99% to Mail.ru Group (formerly Digital Sky Technologies).
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. In April 2013, United Capital Partners bought 48% of VK shares from Vyacheslav Mirilashvili and Lev Leviev for $1.12 billion.
2013–2014: share changes, IPO cancellation, Mail.ru Group ownership
In 2013, the Mirilashvili family sold its 40% share in VK to United Capital Partners for $1.12 billion, 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 controlled around 52% of the company. Shortly thereafter, the CEO of Megafon, sold his 12% stake to Mail.ru, thus allowing mail.ru to consolidate its controlling stake of 52% in VK.
In 2014 Pavel Durov sold his 12% stake to Ivan Tavrin, the CEO of Russian mobile phone operator Megafon. In April 2014 Durov stated he had sold his stake in the company after "coming under increasing pressure" from federal law enforcement to hand over personal details of users who were members of a VK group dedicated to the Euromaidan protest movement. VK canceled their IPO plans after the conditions after Facebook's IPO, which it saw as a failure.
On April 1, 2014, Durov submitted his resignation to the board; at first, due to the fact the company confirmed he had resigned, it was believed to be related to the Ukrainian crisis which started in February. However, Durov himself claimed it was an April Fool's Joke on April 3, 2014. On April 21, 2014, Durov was dismissed as CEO, claiming he failed to withdraw his letter of resignation a month earlier. Durov then claimed the company had been effectively taken over by Vladimir Putin's political faction, suggesting his dismissal was the result of both his refusal to hand over personal details of users to federal law enforcement and his refusal to hand over the personal details of people who were members of a VKontakte group dedicated to the Euromaidan protest movement. Durov then left Russia and stated that he had "no plans to go back" and that "the country is incompatible with Internet business at the moment".
On September 16, 2014, the Mail.ru group bought the remaining 48% stake of VK from United Capital Partners (UCP) for $1.5 billion, thus becoming the sole proprietor of the social network.
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, as well as a real-time news search. VK updated its features and design on April 2016
- Messaging. VK Private Messages can be exchanged between groups of 1 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.
- 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 is a news feed orientated 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 or send it via private message to a friend.
- 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.
- Synchronization with other social networks. Any news published on the VK wall, will appear on Facebook or Twitter. Certain news may not published by clicking on the logo next to the button "Send". Editing post in VK does not change the post in Facebook or Twitter, and vice versa. But removing the news in the VK will remove it from other social networks.
- SMS serves. Russian users can receive and reply to a private messages or leave a comments for community news using SMS.
As of October 2016, according to Alexa Internet ranking, VK is one of the most visited websites in many countries around the world. It holds:
- 1st position in Russia and Belarus
- 2nd position in Ukraine and Kazakhstan
- 4th position in Azerbaijan
- 5th position in Estonia
- 6th position in Lithuania
- 10th position in Israel
As of October 2016 the site is available in 83 languages, while 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.
Promotional use by bands and musicians
Musicians that use VK for promotion often upload their own tracks to their official VK pages. Notable examples include the international celebrities like Tiësto, Shakira, Paul Van Dyk, The Prodigy, Dan Balan, Limp Bizkit, Eros Ramazzotti, Marilyn Manson, Moby and The Offspring.
Issues and controversies
In 2008 the leading Russian television channel RTR sued VKontakte (then VK) 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. 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.
Efforts against copyright infringement
VK is DMCA-compliant and offers a content removal tool for copyright holders. Large-scale copyright holders may gain access to bulk content removal tools.
Since 2010 VK has also entered several partnerships with legal content providers, such as television networks and streaming providers. Most notably, the Video on Demand provider IVI.ru, that has secured licensing rights with all of Hollywood majors in 2012. These partnerships allow providers to remove user-uploaded content from VK and substitute it with legal embedded copies from the provider's site. 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.
In November 2014 the head of The Federal service for supervision of communications, information technology and mass media Maxim Ksenzov said that “Vkontakte” will complete the process of legalization of the content at the beginning of 2015. At that time (November, 2014), negotiations between major labels companies and the social network “Vkontakte” were ongoing.
DDoS attacks on sites
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.
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. However, as of April 2015, the site has been reopened for Italian users and its mobile app is available on both App Store and Google Play.
Founder Pavel Durov's dismissal
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. Durov then claimed the company had been effectively taken over by Vladimir Putin allies, 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.
VK grants easy access to pornographic images, video and other such materials which are shared in certain communities. This makes the site dangerous to younger users, according to a study conducted by Kaspersky Lab.
- Ambient awareness
- Internet in Russia
- Six degrees of separation
- List of social networking websites
- List of virtual communities with more than 100 million active users
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- 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.Video chat is also available (for users who allow incoming calls ) since 2012.
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