Russia has a brand new search engine. In a world where Google dominates the international arena, sole national alternatives have held down fort for about a couple of decades with competitors dying off and even behemoths such as Microsoft struggling to keep their search engines relevant, why does one create a new search engine? Well, this one is kind of different from existing services.
The launch of Sputnik, the search engine backed by the Russian government, symbolically coincided with the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. The beta version of the service was presented by Sergei Kalugin, head of Rostelecom, Russia’s largest telecom operator. Work on the search engine began back in 2006; at the time it was developed by a team of amateurs, according to officials. In 2012 Rostelecom decided to invest in this the project, in an apparent attempt to enter new markets – the company is mostly known for its ISP services, Currently the project is maintained by 150 specialists, which include former employees of Russia’s largest internet companies such as Yandex and Mail.Ru Group.
Now, since this is a governmental project, there are certain social responsibilities the service has. For instance, Alexey Basov, Rostelecom’s vice president, said that Sputnik gives preferential rankings to official media outlets and is geared towards helping users connect with social and governmental institutes. Special services attached to the service streamline the process; for example, “Convenient Russia” allows easy access to government to citizen interaction services. When information regarding Sputnik first became public, it was announced that the search engine would not have built-in filtration for information which may seems as undesirable for governmental entities. However, after playing around with it for a while I discovered that it’s simply impossible to find certain information with Sputnik – you know, such as ‘adult content’. The thing which surprised me the most is the search engine having three filtering options – strong, moderate and light. That’s right, there is simply no way to look for something without a ‘safety filter’.
On the other hand, this approach is quite understandable given the objective of the search engine. I mean, it’s supposed to bring users and governmental services closer together, not help them find various nasty things online. Meanwhile, Russian IT security company Kaspersky lab has published a research illustrating search and surfing habits of kids in Russia and worldwide. Turns out that a whopping 46% of websites visited by underage internet users contain pornography; 26% have firearm-related information. Actually, the ‘adult content’ websites are most popular among the underage of most countries, the research notes, with one exception being Germany- German kids prefer spending their time on gaming websites. On the other hand, almost three quarters of websites visited by Japanese minors contain pornography; France is a close second with 69%.
Other findings include websites classified as containing violent content being most popular in the United States and drug-related sites being popular in Mexico. The research notes that information was pulled from de-personalized data flowing through the Kaspersky Security Network, based on parental controls, and does not include social networks, e-shops and chats, which generally trigger parental filters.