14:47 GMT04 December 2020
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    In Ukraine, a homegrown social network has bitten the dust after its foreign co-management firm withdrew support.

    Ukrainians.co, a grassroots social network set up by tech-savvy citizens of Ukraine, has been closed down after its primary backer — a foreign "startup accelerator" — withdrew its support for the venture.

    The platform was launched after President Petro Poroshenko blocked access to numerous Russian social networks in the country, including the incredibly popular regional Facebook competitor VKontakte in May 2017, as part of an ongoing crackdown on Russian culture in Ukraine. 

    The move was undertaken despite polls indicating around 60 percent of Ukrainians opposing it (in particular the bans on Odnoklassniki, VKontakte and Yandex), international outrage, and opposition parties claiming the restrictions were unconstitutional.

    Rocked by the ban, Ukrainians were nonetheless not without a dedicated social network for long — Ukrainians.co, a VKontakte clone, was quickly launched to fill the gap.

    Hello, Goodbye

    However, on September 5 the site's co-founder Alexandra Strumchinska announced the project would shut down.

    In videos posted to Twitter and Facebook, Strumchinska said the network was earmarked for destruction as its co-management, Canadian startup accelerator StartupSoft, had refused to develop the project any further.

    As such, Strumchinska's "voice [was] not enough" to continue to pursue the project independently.

    "The management of the [StartupSoft] refused not only independent development, but also the possibility of transferring it to any other party that could help me fulfill its promise," she explained.

    Over the course of its existence, Ukrainians.co amassed a user base of around 400,000 — while just under one percent of Ukraine's total population of 45 million, the site operated for a mere three months, and was never fully functional. A fully developed site established over a greater period could well have attracted more users.

    Facebook 1, Ukrainians 0

    Reactions on other social networks to the news varied from disappointment to a lack of surprise. In a sense, the failure of Ukrainians.co to attract greater user volumes is arguably unsurprising — Facebook is an established platform and global social media phenomenon, waiting in the wings when VKontakte was unceremoniously banned in the country.

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Berlin February 25, 2016
    © AP Photo / Kay Nietfeld
    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Berlin February 25, 2016

    Ukrainians had an obvious alternative to immediately flock to, and one with an extremely large marketing budget — Ukrainians.co may not have stood a chance on a longer-term basis.

    In conversations with a mainstream publication, a representative of StartupSoft confirmed the dumping of Ukrainians.co indeed resulted from the immense difficulty of competing with the ascendant Facebook — the 12 million or so Ukrainian VKontakte users did not make the leap to Ukrainians.co as hoped, instead flocking to Zuckberg's titan, and the site's 400,000-strong user base was not particularly active. As such, it was decided to concede defeat before pumping further funds into the project.

    Vkontakte social network service
    © Sputnik / Natalia Seliverstova
    Vkontakte social network service

    Whatever the truth of the matter, Facebook has emerged as a clear winner from President Poroshenko's controversial war on Russian internet sites. It joins Monsanto, Dupont, Cargill, Exxon, Raytheon and the Bleyzer Foundation as just the latest major US corporation to benefit from the Maidan Coup.     


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