On September 23, 1997, the Yandex search engine was unveiled at the SofTool Exhibition. Soon after launching Yandex, our cofounders Ilya Segalovich and Arkady Volozh saw an opportunity to provide users with more than a search engine. “The user’s journey doesn’t end with search. We understood that very early on,” said Yandex CEO Arkady Volozh. In our first five years, Yandex added a number of services, including email, news and image search, eCommerce, and online payments. We also launched Yandex.Direct, the Russian Internet’s first contextual ad placement service for businesses who wanted to advertise on Yandex.
In addition to helping users find the things they want online, by the mid-2000s, Yandex began supporting users’ offline navigation needs as well. In 2004, we launched Yandex.Maps and two years later, we began displaying traffic information for users in Moscow, helping them better traverse the city’s notoriously congested streets. “Over the years, the internet has not only grown in size, it has also penetrated into all spheres of life,” said Dmitry Ivanov, Head of Discovery Products, who joined Yandex in 2003. “At Yandex, we’ve kept pace with this growth, expanding our services across many areas of users’ lives.”
Longtime Yandex employee and IR Director, Katya Zhukova recalls one of her favorite memories from the early days, “We constantly thought about our users and joked that every new product had to be designed simply enough that anyone, including Arkady Volozh’s mother, could use it. We called it 'Volozh’s Mothers Test.'" A combination of top tech talent, as well as best-in-class technology, have enabled Yandex to make products that pass the test.
In 2007, we opened the Yandex School of Data Analysis, a free Master’s-level program in Computer Science and Data Analysis. Many graduates have gone on to work at Yandex and grow our machine learning technologies. “I truly believe that it is not just the deep expertise in machine learning, AI, neural networks and the brightest, most talented employees, but also this user-oriented approach that has brought us to where we are today,” says Katya.
By 2011, the world began to take notice. We held our initial public offering on the NASDAQ stock market. We also launched Yandex.Taxi, our market-leading on-demand transportation service.
Grigory Bakunov who leads all health care related initiatives for Yandex and has been with Yandex for over 15 years describes the maturation of Yandex over time as “we started as a typical startup: do it faster, fail, do it again but another way. But year by year we grew a full stack of new technologies and systems. Some of them are now state of the art and at the bleeding edge of computer science.”
In the past five years we have focused on personalizing our products and services to the increasingly mobile needs of users and businesses. 2017 has been a breakout year for Yandex. Our Yandex.Taxi business merged with Uber to form a new company that will serve 127 cities across six countries. We announced a joint venture with Sberbank to further develop our Yandex.Market platform. We also open-sourced a machine learning library based on gradient boosting called CatBoost. 2017 also ushered in greater choice for millions of Russian Android users who can now select their preferred search engine on their mobile devices.
“As I reflect back on the past 20 years, I want to thank the entire team at Yandex, and our users, for joining us on this journey,” said Yandex CEO, Arkady Volozh. “We remain committed to our mission helping users better navigate the online and offline world. Wherever the destination – online, offline, or something new altogether – users can trust Yandex to take them there.”