Yandex School of Data Analysis Graduates Win Medals at World Team Programming Championship
27 June, 2014
Yandex School of Data Analysis graduates Mikhail Kolupayev and Vyacheslav Alipov have won bronze medals at the World Finals of the International Collegiate Programming Contest (ACM ICPC). The 2014 graduates of the school competed in this week’s finals in Yekaterinburg as members of the National Research University Higher School of Economics team.
ACM ICPC is the premier team programming championship worldwide and the most renowned competition of its kind.
First place at ACM ICPC 2014 went to a team from St. Petersburg State University. Team members Dmitry Egorov and Egor Suvorov are students of St. Petersburg’s Computer Science Center, which the School of Data Analysis helped create. The other gold medal-winning teams (ACM ICPC awards gold to the top four) are from Moscow State University, Peking University and the National Taiwan University.
Yandex congratulates the winners and place-getters, and looks forward to the Algorithm-2014 individual programming finals this August in Berlin, organised by the company.
Yandex.Disk Gives Users More Control Over Their Content on Social Networks
26 June, 2014
Your content is yours and only yours. It doesn’t stop belonging to you even after you share it online. That’s what we believe in, at least. Yandex.Disk, our cloud storage service, now has a functionality which allows the service users to syphon all photos posted on their Facebook, VK.com and some other social network accounts into folders on their Yandex.Disk – just in a couple of clicks.
Using Yandex.Disk’s new photo import feature, they can save on their cloud storage service not only the photos they shared themselves, but also those images in which they were tagged by someone else. The users of the cloud service can also share their photos stored on Yandex.Disk simultaneously to their Facebook, VK.com or other accounts – one image or whole album at a time. The service’s built-in photo-editing tool can be used to enhance the quality of pictures or add filters, text or graphics before publishing.
Yandex.Disk’s new functionality, currently available only on desktop, gives users more control over their photos on the internet and also simplifies their management. This opportunity might interest businesses, such as stock photo agencies or image banks, or web-based photo printing companies, who will be able to increase their customer base by simplifying their processes and thus attracting new non-professional contributors. Yandex.Disk’s integration with social networks is just one step on the way toward deep integration with image-based services via API.
Since its launch in April 2012, Yandex.Disk has been evolving to meet the needs of the majority of its users. Having started as a cloud service offering 20GB of free storage space to everyone, Yandex.Disk responded to popular demand later on and expanded its range by providing an opportunity to buy more space, at flexible rates, to those who needed it. The cloud service’s technology was also used to help mobile users transfer their content from their old Symbian, Java or WindowsMobile phone to a new iOS- or Android-based device.
Yandex.Disk is available in English, Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian as a web service, as well as a desktop app for Windows, OS X and Linux platforms, and a mobile app for iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices.
With over five million international user accounts on top of 19 million users registered in Russia, Yandex.Disk enjoys catering for the needs of the global audience and appreciates the trust of its users wherever they are.
What you see is what you get on Yandex
29 May, 2014
Reverse image search – or searching not by words but by visual content – has just become available to users of Yandex.com. This feature works on computer vision technology created by developers at Yandex. We’ve named it “Sibir” (Russian for “Siberia”), from the acronym CBIR, which stands for “content-based image retrieval”.
The technology transforms pictures, submitted by users in the form of search queries, into sets of “visual phrases” – that is, numerical representations of images’ key features. Next, from the billions of pictures available on the internet, the search engine selects images containing the same visual phrases as those in the submitted picture, sifting out all the rest. This is an important step, because speeding up the process depends on reducing the scope of the search. The computer then compares the position of key features on the images and ranks them according to their similarity to the submitted picture, so that the closest resemblances will be at the top of the list. This entire process – from uploading or selecting an image to search results – takes less than a second.
Last year we announced Sibir in Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus. Since then, we have been studying how this feature is used and in which situations. In a year we have come to understand that reverse image search is something like a toothache. While we don’t have it, we don’t think about it. But as soon as a tooth starts to ache, we’d sell our soul for a dentist. So while reverse image search is far from being the most in-demand service on the internet, when the need arises it’s acute.
Here are the five most frequent situations in which users need reverse image search:
1. “Are they lying to me with a false image?”
Is that a genuine portrait of the person trying to make friends with you on a social network or dating website? Is it the actual car/flat/bike/kitchenware that a private seller is trying to flog on an online forum or classified advertisements website? Is this really the beach and hotel that the travel agency is sending you to?
2. “What the hell is that?”
Submit an unidentified image as your search query and find one just like it, but this time with a caption describing what is shown. So that you won’t mistake, say, an African purple frog for a mole or a shrew (heaven forbid!).
3. “I need the same image, but in higher resolution or without cropping.”
Picture editors at all sorts of web-based or offline publications, including newspapers, magazines, books and catalogues, or anyone working on a presentation or report, be it professionally or as a student, will appreciate a possibility to find a desired image to exact specifications.
4. “I’m a photographer and I’d like to check whether my copyright has been infringed online.”
Professional photographers or artists can use this search feature to make sure they aren’t missing on royalties.
5. “I saw a cool watch on the internet but the model wasn’t named. I want to use that image to search internet stores and find one selling exactly that model.”
Reverse image search is a godsend to shopacholics. Or to anyone on the lookout for a birthday gift or a wedding present for their favourite blogger posting pictures of objects of their desire on their blog.
Computer vision is a very complex, research- and resource-intense technology. While many companies and scientific centres are researching it and have developed technologies capable of working with small collections of pictures, very few have developed products based on computer vision that can work with tens of billions of images. Before the industry mastered the method of image search using computer vision, search engines found pictures by using the accompanying text that describes the visual content. This had its drawbacks, for example the query “ants” could easily turn up pictures of caterpillars from a nature article on the subject of “ants against caterpillars”.
Our image search is just the first step on what will be a rather difficult path. Yandex today can offer its users pictures that match an uploaded image or have identical fragments, but the day when we’ll be able to tell our users what it is that they have photographed isn’t far away. Even now Yandex’s reverse image search can find not only that exact same picture, but also other images containing the same object.
Yandex's Annual International Programming Contest Invites Participants to Compete in Solving Algorithmic Problems
22 April, 2014
Yandex.Algorithm 2014 will have its final round on the 1st of August on the premises of Yandex's newly opened Berlin office. In addition to showing their skills in competitive programming, those reaching the final round of the contest will have an opportunity to socialise and browse the city's famous attractions during the three days of the finals.
Last year's event gathered more than three thousand participants from 84 countries, including 16 programmers from Germany, six Swiss nationals and two Austrians. One of the German contestants qualified 20th in the final round, which was held in one of St. Petersburg's most magnificent palaces and saw a Belarusian win the competition, with a Russian national scoring second and a student from Taiwan finishing in the third place.
The Yandex.Algorithm contest is open to everyone regardless of their educational background, location or occupation. The official language of the competition is English. The total prize fund for this competition is 540,000 roubles (about €10,800), with the major portion – 300,000 roubles (about €6,000) – going to the winner. The second and third places will give their winners 150,000 roubles (about €3,000) and 90,000 roubles (€1,800) respectively.
The programming championship will consist of six rounds that will last 100 minutes each. The warm-up round will take place on May 16. Registered contestants will need to solve at least one problem to participate in the qualifying round, which will be held one week after that – on May 25. The three championship rounds will be held online from July 1 to July 15 and will determine 25 top performers who will compete in the finals in Berlin on August 1.
Tasks in the Yandex.Algorithm contest are provided by the Yandex experts, who, according to the rules of the contest, cannot compete, but can contribute to the contest as part of the international organising team, which includes experienced experts from Russia, Poland and the United States.
In contrast to other programming competitions, Yandex.Algorithm allows contestants to choose when and how their solutions are evaluated – individually and right after submission, or in total and only when all of the solutions have been submitted. The first option gives additional points to each solution, although it also removes an opportunity to correct a solution before submitting. This arrangement gives contestants more flexibility in their competitive strategy and a better chance to win.
Arctic Virtual Tour Images Appear on Yandex.Maps
18 April, 2014
Panoramic images of Franz Joseph Land, an uninhabited, but historically attractive archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, have been added to Yandex.Maps. Following the steps of the great Arctic explorers of the past, including the pioneer discoverers, Julius von Payer and Karl Weyprecht of Austro-Hungarian North Pole Expedition, who gave name to the islands, as well as Fridtjof Nansen and Frederick George Jackson, among others, web users can now witness the bare beauty of the extreme geography and weather without leaving the comfort of their armchair.
The images were brought to Yandex.Maps by our content provider, neq4, who was lucky enough to join the National Geographic – Russian Geographical Society expedition to Franz Joseph Land as part of their Pristine Seas project.
Now all Yandex.Maps users can share, albeit virtually, the experience of frozen waterfalls and mossy Arctic rocks, see the memorial landmark cross for Georgy Sedov and his expedition on Hooker Island, ‘stand’ on the edge of the northernmost point of the Eurasian continent, and even find a proof that postal service is still the ultimate outpost of civilization.
The expedition took 42 days and gave us 255 panoramic images of the Arctic region made of 1,020 snapshots taken on eleven of a group of 191 islands comprising the Franz Joseph Land archipelago.
To offer web users an opportunity to virtually move around a location, Yandex.Maps creates interactive panoramic street views using high-resolution cameras attached to a GPS-equipped car. In areas that are closed to motor vehicles, cameras are attached to a bicycle or carried by hand. Read more about how panoramic virtual tours on Yandex.Maps are created in Products and Technologies.
Nokia’s Android Phones Come to Russia Fitted with Yandex Apps
27 March, 2014
Nokia’s Android smartphone, Nokia X, announced at the recent Mobile World Congress, comes to the Russian and Belarusian markets equipped with the essential search functionality provided by Yandex. The Finnish company’s first in the X-series of phones premieres today on these markets with the Yandex.Search app already preinstalled and the Yandex search engine as a built-in search provider in the phone’s browser.
Buyers of Nokia’s new product in these countries will be able to funnel mobile apps for all their needs through our alternative Android app store, Yandex.Store, which is now featured in Nokia Store. Nokia’s range of Yandex-enhanced Nokia X smartphones will continue with Nokia X+ and XL with Yandex as a default search provider and Yandex.Store preinstalled.
Nokia’s smartphones have always been popular in Russia and the CIS, not in the least, because of the company’s ability to cater for the specific needs of their customers in each of the markets. It’s only natural for Yandex, who always placed a top priority on relevance of service to a specific user in a specific location, and Nokia to join efforts to make sure the user experience of their customers is locally-relevant, smooth and seamless, even when they go from desktop to mobile, or from one mobile device or OS to another. Nokia’s decision to choose Yandex’s products for their new phones in Russia and Belarus ensures comfortable user experience for their customers in each of these countries, who already know Yandex and its products very well.
We’ve been partnering with Nokia since 2011, when Yandex became a default search provider on Nokia’s Lumia 800 and Lumia 710 distributed in Russia. We’re now happy to have rekindled our old relationship through our support of the alternative Android ecosystem. The love of freedom of choice is what brings Yandex and Nokia together in this partnership.
Yandex Acquires Israeli Developer of Smart Geo-Location Technology – KitLocate
18 March, 2014
Always on the lookout for top talent and breakthrough technology, Yandex has long been eyeing Israel’s Silicon Valley – Silicon Wadi. And now we are happy to report that the award-winning startup,KitLocate, the developer of a smart, energy-efficient cloud location technology for mobile devices, together with its brilliant team of eight, is joining our mobile search team.
KitLocate’s technology, packed into a developer-friendly SDK, provides location capabilities, including geo-fencing, motion detection and social location, for location-based apps on the user’s iOS or Android smartphone. The trick is, while doing that it lowers battery power consumption down to less than 1% per hour. KitLocate's algorithms allow location-based apps to request the device's geographic coordinates less frequently without losing precision, which considerably extends the phone's life between charges.
The Israeli team’s technology has already been successfully implemented in a mobile app, which helps drivers to find available parking spaces in their immediate vicinity. Popular in Israel financial service, Isracard, uses KitLocate’s technology to deliver its offers to users’ phones based on their current location.
Those of Yandex’s mobile products that don’t need continuous GPS synching, such as our location-based search, cannot wait to be augmented by KitLocate’s smart solution. With KitLocate’s technology, we’ll be able to deliver search results, as well as product or service offers, on the user’s mobile phone or tablet, relevant not only to a specific user, but also to their current location. This cloud solution looks especially promising for location-based recommendation apps.
Yandex’s previous experience working with a startup from Israel was investment in a facial recognition technology developer, Face.com, which was later acquired by Facebook. After joining Yandex, KitLocate’s brilliant team, also based in Tel Aviv, is very likely to soon be growing both in size and scale of expertise. Their solution will continue to be available for implementation in other location-based apps that don’t require continuous geo-tracking.
Yandex Partners with Google to Change Russia's Display Ad Market
25 February, 2014
The global advertising market has been experiencing some serious technology-driven transformation for the past few years. The common trend is the growing popularity of automated web-based services offering media buying and data management capabilities on the demand side and best-value selling opportunities on the supply side. All packed in a convenient, user-friendly interface with comprehensive statistics reporting tools.
Yandex launched its own Real-Time Bidding system for auctioning ad impressions to advertising systems in March 2012. Yandex.Direct and myThings were pioneer participants in the auction, which were later joined by Tinkoff Digital, the developer of Russia’s first RTB platform, and LaModa, one of the most popular fashion e-retailers in Russia.
In line with the current industry trend, companies develop their own Demand-Side Platforms, often powered by the real-time bidding technology, to mediate ad marketing between buyers and sellers, and sharing participants for mutual benefit.
We’re now happy to announce our partnership with Google, which will facilitate global networking and open competition in digital marketing. Through Google’s subsidiary DoubleClick, the company’s advertising clients will now have access to one of Russia’s largest advertising inventories offered by publishers in Yandex’s Advertising Network, while the advertising clients of Yandex will be able to bid for ad displays in the global inventory of DoubleClick AdExchange partners. Both systems are powered by the real-time-bidding technology, which allows advertisers and publishers to maximise their advertising revenues and cut costs through efficient audience targeting and automated, algorithm-based bidding.
Having already signed the bilateral partnership agreement, we're now at the technical stage of implementing this project. First and foremost, this agreement is expected to dramatically increase advertising inventory available to the clients of both companies whose respective advertising pools in the CIS countries don't overlap much. And, of course, pouring a new batch of feed into the fish-tank gives a new kick to competition and boosts the quality of advertising space – the better is the inventory, the more desirable it is for buyers, the higher bids it generates in a real-time bidding auction.
The RTB-based advertising market on the whole benefits from a larger number of bidders and sellers, each with their own targeting goals and display opportunities. The more conditions the system takes into account when matching ads to publishers, the more fine-tuned the ad targeting is and the better optimised the bids are. Accessibility of Yandex’s inventories for Google’s advertising clients, and Google’s inventories for Yandex’s advertisers, supports the idea of and the principle behind real-time bidding – each auction participant has an equal chance to reach their goal.
Android Device Manufacturers Get Kitted Out with Yandex.Kit
19 February, 2014
For the majority of small or medium-sized Android device manufacturers, using the popular Linux-based mobile operating system, which is famously free to install, modify and distribute, is like being given a car without the key. It's nice and all but how do you drive it?
There isn’t much use of a free operating system if you cannot offer your customers all the basic features mobile users now take for granted. The Android mobile OS is free, but all the defining features of a mobile experience – app store, browser, email and maps – are all available under special, case-by-case agreements.
Freedom of choice. We love it. We have been developing products and services to enjoy this freedom and share it with all internet users since 1997. With the explosive evolution in mobile industry, our key desktop products followed their consumers and migrated to smartphones and tablets
Yandex.Maps, Yandex.Mail and our search service were the first to appear on the world's most popular Android platform, followed by the stellar user interface solution UI Shell 3D, which is now known as Yandex.Shell. Last year, our application store for Android, Yandex.Store, Yandex.Browser and a cloud storage app, Yandex.Disk, joined the range of our Android solutions.
While we primarily were working on covering all the bases for our users on Android devices, what we've got in the end was a full-fledged Android 'ecosystem'. A comprehensive, out-of-the-box solution, versatile and technologically honed enough to be offered to original device manufacturers as firmware that they can install on their devices shipped to the Russian market. This is the key to the car they were given for free and now they can drive it.
Yandex.Kit is a customisable suite of mobile components available for most versions of Android OS. It has all the basics indispensable for the up-to-date mobile experience. Vendors selling their original Android devices in Russia can enjoy the full Yandex.Kit package, which currently includes an app store, launcher and dialer, browser, maps, a cloud app - 15 apps overall. OEMs targeting other markets can enjoy Yandex.Kit as a trio of Yandex products – Yandex.Shell UI, Yandex.Browser and Yandex.Store.
And the best part is there are no fees. Yandex.Kit is distributed on a fee-free basis and performs well on virtually any hardware, including the not-so-powerful devices popular in Russia and the CIS. In addition, smartphones carrying Yandex.Kit can be easily branded under the manufacturer's name. In Russia, the manufacturer can choose to market their device with the Yandex logo, to piggyback on the existing customer affinity for one of the most recognisable and strong brands in this country.
Huawei and Explay, the early adopters of alternative Android software, will show their devices with Yandex.Kit on board at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in just four days. Their phones will be available to customers in Russia in March.
Reasons to love Yandex.Kit:
One-stop authorisation gives the user an opportunity to have access to all Yandex apps after entering their name and password only once – when they are setting up their phone.
Instant contact syncing instantly imports the user’s contacts from their Google Account to their Yandex account.
Smart dialer uses information from Yandex's Business Directory to identify the caller's number even if they aren’t one of the user's contacts.
Android app store, Yandex.Store, gives the user access to the inventory of over 100,000 apps, including most popular, such as Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Cut The Rope and others. Users of Yandex.Store in the Yandex.Kit package also receive a 10% rebate from every app purchase to their 'rebate account', which can be used for purchasing more apps. The classical 70/30 revenue share scheme, when the revenue from app sales is shared between the app developer and the store, also includes the manufacturer or provider of the device that carries Yandex.Kit.
Other reasons to love Yandex.Kit:
Yandex's cloud service, Yandex.Disk, is available for running on original devices as part of the package with Yandex.Store, Yandex.Browser and Yandex.Shell. The map library, featuring a worldwide map and detailed maps for the largest US and European cities, compatible with any geolocation app via a mapping API, is available with Yandex.Store or as part of the full package.
OEMs and mobile providers can discover more business opportunities at our stand E33, Hall 5 at Mobile World Congress in Fira Barcelona Gran Via, on February, 24-27.
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