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.
¡Nos vemos pronto!
6 February, 2014
We are setting up camp at yet another location. This time, in Berlin, Germany. This is our 16th office globally and our third office in Europe.
Unlike our Lucerne office, which steers our European sales, and much like our team in Zurich, who develop, among other things, a speech recognition technology, our people in Berlin will concentrate on research and development. By the end of this year, we’re expecting the airy office space in Karl-Liebknecht-Straße, with enough room for up to 130 people, to fill with 30-40 workstations, occupied by top-class software engineers and user interface designers. At this stage, they will work on the global version of our well-loved Yandex.Maps service, with other tasks and projects being added in the future. You can take a look at our current job openings in Berlin right now.
Berlin wasn’t hard to choose. It has everything an exponentially developing IT company can wish for – a thriving high-tech industry, an attractive business environment, an impressive academic scene and a lively startup community. With its central geographic location, the capital city of Germany has become a major European hub for the IT industry, hosting a number of key events and conferences. It is also well positioned for talent scouting all over Europe.
Berlin is a perfect place to meet new people, exchange ideas, share experiences, learn about new approaches to old problems and discover new talent. In addition to all of the above, it’s just nice to live and work in, and Moscow (as well as many other great European destinations) is only a short flight away.
Yandex Invests in Logistics Services Software Provider
29 January, 2014
Russia's ecommerce is booming. The country’s online retail made up $12 billion in 2012 and accounted for 1.9% of the total retail trade in the country, according to Morgan Stanley. The global financial services firm has also reported that 48% of Russian internet shoppers started making online purchases in the last two years, and forecasted that internet purchases would make up 4.5% of all retail sales by 2015.
This growth rate, however, might have been even higher, had one of the major problems deterring the country's ecommerce had been resolved – the problem of delivering a purchase across a distance of more than 30-50km, or, ideally, across all nine time zones. This is what head of Ozon, one of Russia’s largest online retailers, was talking about almost a year ago. This is what the European and Chinese retailers are talking about when we approach them with offers from our comparison shopping service, Yandex.Market – the largest ecommerce platform in Russia at the moment.
We have working business solutions and a fantastically loyal audience to offer, but few foreign enterprises are fearless enough to take the plunge without a ready-made, smoothly running distribution system. Most international retailers embark on their journey in Russia with a small outlet in one of the capitals, or start with selling their goods through a local authorised retailer. Everyone, at the same time, understands that a mere fact of having a convenient and reliable method of delivering goods across the vast territories of Russia would have significantly improved the country's attractiveness in the eyes of international electronic merchants.
To meet the growing demand for quality logistics, Yandex has partnered with a Russian aggregator of logistics services, MultiShip, which gives online stores an opportunity to quickly and easily set up and offer their clients a convenient and trackable delivery service across Russia. The users of Yandex's comparison shopping system, Yandex.Market, will soon be able not only to choose products offered by participating retailers, but also select the best delivery method at the best price offered by the most relevant logistics company partnering with MultiShip. Powered by MultiShip’s technology, Yandex.Market will be able to help the user make their choice by calculating the best offer based on cost, time and other terms and conditions of delivery.
The delivery information will be seamlessly built into the purchase-making process, so that the user won't have to worry about third-party logistics. Now online shoppers in, say, Novosibirsk, will be able to choose on Yandex.Market not only from goods available in the local internet outlets, but also from a full range of products in online stores based in, say, Saint Petersburg. By taking on the role of a 'single entry point', MultiShip, in its turn, makes it easier for online stores to join the logistics services aggregator, and, by doing so, expands its coverage. It takes only a few days for a retailer to join the aggregator and get access to the services of all participating delivery companies, in contrast to up to two months to plug into just one logistics service via API. Currently, MultiShip collaborates with Russia's leading logistics players, including Axiomus, B2Cpl, Boxberry, CDEK, Maxima Express, PickPoint, Pony Express, QIWI Post, and CourierServiceExpress – and welcomes new partners to join. All of these companies make up a logistics network, which covers the whole of Russia and facilitates the delivery of orders to more than 40,000 cities and towns, services more than 2,000 collection points (including automated parcel collection points) and delivers goods for Russian Post (through one of its partners).
According to the agreement, Yandex is purchasing MultiShip’s technologies and software for $1m and investing a further few million into the company's development and business expansion. MultiShip’s software engineers are joining the Yandex team to help the company develop new products and services for internet stores.
Yandex.Market is Russia’s largest ecommerce comparison shopping platform, which allows shoppers to choose products, services or retailers online, while online stores can enjoy an opportunity to list their products on a popular product search website with a smart and user-friendly interface.
During the thirteen years of its life, Yandex.Market has grown into a standard-defining player on Russia’s ecommerce market. The service’s ranking system for stores and products based on customer feedback, alongside the detailed product and seller information, shopping tips, rigorous content verification and moderation, turned Yandex.Market into the force that brought order, transparency and security to Russia’s ecommerce.
Yandex.Market currently features more than 14,000 online stores with more than 53,000,000 product offers available to customers in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Turkey. According to comScore MediaMetrix, more than 18 million shoppers across many countries choose products on Yandex.Market every month.
In addition to setting market standards in Russia, the service also has always been the first to adopt and introduce global trends, such as a more efficient cost-per-action business model. Or, a single checkout for multiple purchases in multiple stores. The interests of online customers and partners have always been key for Yandex.Market, whose primary aim is to facilitate internet experience for end-users and support the burgeoning ecommerce market in Russia.
Facebook ‘Firehose’ Comes to Yandex
14 January, 2014
One of the biggest changes to have taken place in the internet recently is, without doubt, the rise of social networks. They’ve become so popular that it’s now difficult to imagine the internet without them. Millions of people turn to online social networks every day to catch up with friends and family, share news and opinions, or just have a laugh. Like it or not, they’ve become a part of daily life.
It follows that information about the hot topics in social networks is an important factor for a search engine in answering users’ questions. The intensity of discussion on any subject in social media is proof of the topic’s relevance, or “hotness” if you will. A search engine has to take this into consideration.
Here at Yandex, we’ve always said that our specialisation is information-search services, aggregation and the structuring of content. We don’t compete with anybody in the sphere of social networks; instead we seek to collaborate with all the players. We see one of our key tasks as being the creation of social search services, using content from all the popular social networks in equal measure. We want to provide users with the possibility to receive answers that take into account the information that can be gathered from these resources. This would allow a user to find an old friend without having to register on every single social network one after another. It would also allow a user to tap in to all the discussions of some interesting event all together in one place.
We’re already working with Twitter in such a way, and we index status updates in LiveJournal, VK and others.
Today we’re announcing another important step in this direction: Facebook has granted us full access to its “firehose” of public data. This means that now, not only can Yandex search for people and company pages on Facebook, it can also search for content marked “Public” from users in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Turkey. Of course, anything users mark as “Private” will remain off-limits.
At present, Facebook posts from users in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan pop up in search results only on the Blogs part of Yandex Search, but soon they will be added to the service’s main Search page, giving users even fresher answers to their questions about recent and current events. Along with answers to such queries, Yandex will add up-to-date articles and videos, among other things that have had great resonance among Facebook users. In addition, the popularity of materials in the social network will be taken into consideration when ranking search results.
Route graph: How it works on Yandex.Maps
8 January, 2014
Ten to 15 years ago, every driver’s glovebox contained a road atlas – an indispensible guide for planning driving routes. Now, instead of road atlas books, drivers rely more on electronic maps and mobile applications – and, inadvertently, on smart algorithms, which do the hard work figuring out the best routes. Yandex helps people plan journeys with the maps.yandex.ru service, as well as with the Yandex.Navigator and Yandex.Maps mobile apps. The technology for plotting routes currently used in all mapping or navigation products all over the world is the same everywhere; the only thing that differs is the interface.
The main components of Yandex’s route constructor are the road graph and the algorithm that figures out the best route.
What is a road graph?
Of course, a road graph can't be completed once and for all. Urban transport systems have a habit of changing. New roads and interchanges appear, the direction of traffic changes. Where yesterday there was a turnoff, tomorrow there might be a “no entry” sign. To keep up with real conditions, Yandex regularly updates its data.
Users help us with this task, too. They notify us of inaccuracies with the help of mobile Yandex.Maps, Yandex.Navigator and the Yandex.Maps web service. Yandex experts are constantly working with these notifications, as well as with information from other open sources such as local administration websites.
Also, we have a special system to identify inaccuracies on the road graph. This system registers incidents when a vehicle’s movement (the information about which is anonymously and automatically provided to us by drivers) doesn’t match our road network information. If it’s not a one-off case in which a rogue driver strays onto the verge or takes an illegal turn, then it’s possible that the traffic scheme has changed. All such cases are analysed, and then changes are made to the road graph.
Several copies of the road graph are stored in Yandex’s servers, so that even if one is temporarily unavailable, the route constructor will still work.
How routes are constructed
How it works can be illustrated with an example. Imagine that you need a route from point A to point B. The algorithm starts to methodically identify all possible routes. First it plots just one step (or graph fragment) in all directions from point A. Then it calculates how long it would take to travel the length of each route segment (easily done by dividing distance by speed). After that, it chooses the point that can be reached fastest – let’s call it C.
Having identified the point C – the algorithm then works on the next step of the route, analysing all directions from this point.
The point reached fastest becomes D – and the next stage of the route is plotted from here. And so the algorithm continues working in this way until it finds the fastest of all possible route options to reach the final destination.
Courtyards are a special issue. As you may be aware, it’s forbidden to use them as thoroughfares. Besides that, a winding path through courtyards often takes longer than a direct route. To make sure the service doesn’t construct routes through courtyards, the algorithm adds extra penalty minutes for passage through them. This doesn’t affect the journey time that the user sees, however. Once the fastest route has been determined, the time of routes through courtyards is recalculated without adding the penalty minutes. In most cases, the algorithm chooses other routes – they’re faster. But if the final destination is in a courtyard, naturally the algorithm has to “drive in”.
Routes are constructed very quickly. In the time it took you to read a few sentences of this article, the service could have laid a spider web of routes criss-crossing entire Russia. To achieve such speed, the system automatically divides the entire map into a multitude of areas, and calculates the optimal routes for crossing each one. Such an area might be, for example, a small town intersected by just one intercity highway that is the only option for driving into or out of the town. For such cases, Yandex would have a pre-calculated optimal route.
If there are several such areas in a user’s journey, Yandex simply joins together these ready fragments to construct the route.
Yandex plots all possible variations for driving through and between all areas in advance, every time the road graph is updated. Then, when a user asks the service to construct a route, the ready-made route is simply fetched from memory. Of course, this only works when the user requests a route without accounting for current traffic conditions, since the routes constructed in advance are based on average speeds. If the user wants to construct a route taking current traffic conditions into consideration – and if there are traffic jams in the area at that time – Yandex constructs a route for the user from scratch.
Mail Encryption in Yandex.Mail
18 December, 2013
With the data privacy issues making front pages around the world, Yandex.Mail emails are passed from user’s device to the Yandex.Mail server, from the Yandex.Mail server to the receiving mail server and to their final destination on the addressee’s device, in safety. Messages sent or received by over 50 million users of the service are now securely protected from tapping into during a server-to-server transfer by encryption.
Opportunistic encryption protects data during transfer between internet users by encrypting it in one or more segments of the route, depending on encrypting capabilities of each party. If one of the messaging systems supports encryption, while the other one doesn’t, data transfer takes place anyway, albeit unencrypted.
Historically, electronic messaging services developed as desktop computer programs – email clients, which accessed and transferred user’s emails using Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP), Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3) and Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). These days, the majority of emails around the world is sent and received via web-based email services, which use a common data communication protocol, Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). These protocols are used to pass information from sender to sender’s mail server, from sender’s mail server to receiver’s mail server, and then to access this information on receiver’s mail server and pass it on to receiver. These protocols don’t offer data encryption and require an extension to convert plain text to an encrypted form.
Yandex.Mail, one of Russia’s most popular email services, whose users send about 15 million messages and receive about 100 million messages every day, is now using cryptographic protocols Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to provide secure communication between Yandex.Mail servers and the servers of other email systems. The service has been encrypting communication between users’ browsers and its servers since 2011, while data transfers between mailing clients and Yandex.Mail servers has been encrypted starting from 2009. All mobile versions of Yandex.Mail are shipped to end users with encrypting capabilities.
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