Yandex Blog

Yandex Browser Gives Users Control Over Third-Party Cookies

Yandex has rolled out a feature that automatically blocks unauthorized third-party cookies and lets users manage their third-party cookies through a simple dashboard built into the Yandex Browser. The new feature enhances user privacy and grants users control over who they share their data with, while still allowing advertisers to reach their potential customer

Yandex Browser, first launched in 2012, is now available in 14 languages on all digital platforms and has a monthly audience of 35 million users on desktop and 37 million mobile users worldwide. The YTP feature is available on desktop as well as on mobile for Android devices.

The technology is called Your Tracking Protection (YTP) and it only allows third-party cookies from websites that are deemed trusted. These sites alone can show relevant ads or  use features provided by other parties, such as a sharing button or chat functionality. Third-party cookies from websites that users have never visited before are blocked by default. Previously visited websites are considered trusted though the user is able to change this setting at any time. Information about YTP can be viewed directly in the browser.  

Yandex Browser users will also be able to see which third-party trackers have been blocked or allowed automatically on any given website and choose to block or unblock any of them. The new feature is easy to use and gives users a full and transparent view of third-party cookies running on each website. 

Third-party trackers running on each website can be viewed by clicking on a counter on the right of the browser’s address bar.

Yandex Browser users can view which trackers have been blocked automatically and choose to unblock or block any of them temporarily or permanently.

At Yandex, we believe in creating solutions that benefit content creators and advertisers without compromising user privacy.  Web users should be able to see who can access their information and manage how it is used. Unauthorized sharing of data should be eliminated, but a blanket ban on all third-party cookies is a measure that may affect the whole ecosystem including users, publishers, websites and advertisers. Total blocking of third-party cookies will make it harder for advertisers  to target their desired audiences, while web users will be exposed to irrelevant ads. They  may also be unable to access multiple websites with the same login or share web content to social networks. The YTP technology strikes a balance between complete blocking of all third-party cookies, providing users with a safe and personal internet experience, while allowing advertisers to engage with potential customers. 

In addition to launching the YTP technology in Yandex Browser, we are also providing clients on our advertising platform with targeting opportunities that do not rely on third-party data, such as context-based targeting. 

We will continue to develop technologies and advertising solutions to ensure that advertisers and web users can interact safely and efficiently.  


 

Yandex Updates Logo to Reflect Current Ecosystem of Online and Offline Services

Yandex has revealed an updated logo, both in Russian and English. The refreshed logo reflects our transformation from a search provider to an ecosystem of products and services for everyday life. 

The previous version was created in 2008 and designed primarily for viewing with a desktop computer when Yandex was a search engine and internet portal offering its services exclusively online. Back then, no one could have predicted that an internet company could deliver groceries or develop self-driving cars.

Now that mobile phones have overtaken desktop devices and the line between online and offline worlds has blurred, Yandex makes products and services for both. For instance, in addition to Yandex apps, Yandex.Eats couriers now deliver orders from restaurants, Yandex Go taxis carry passengers and Yandex.Lavka scooter drivers bring people their groceries in under 15 minutes. 

The new logo reflects this modern reality. It was designed to look natural on any platform and in any environment, digital or physical, from apps in your phone to a delivery box at your door to a driverless car on your street.

The logo is updated but maintains a connection with the previous version to represent that all of Yandex’s products and services originate from the same core technology – search algorithms.

The new Yandex logo is part of a broader rebranding plan to update the graphic design of all Yandex products and services, both online and offline.

Music of the Spheres: Yandex Music uses algorithms to turn cosmic bodies into art

Yandex Music has released The Sound of Stars, a playlist of audio compositions created to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first human flight into space.

The playlist’s ten tracks were created using physical properties of stars, pulsars and galaxies converted by algorithms into music. The audio journey across the universe begins from the Sun and ends 53.5 million light-years away from the Earth – in the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy M87. Each track in the playlist is dedicated to a specific astronomical object and uses its physical characteristics. The playlist also features commentaries by scientists and short looped videos representing the ‘heroes’ of each track.

“We know from watching sci-fi films that sounds of space are either menacing and disturbing, or it’s ambient abstract music. But the truth is, no one knows what space really sounds like. Or rather, what it would sound like if sound could travel through space. The music that is normally associated with space is just someone's fantasy. So, we thought, why not try and apply technology to our own fantasy? What we got in the end is the new sound of space, which can take our users on a cosmic journey of their own,” says Andrey Gevak, head of Yandex Music.

We used sonification methods to turn specific astrophysical parameters, such as brightness or motion of a celestial body, into sound properties, such as frequency or amplitude. Then numeric values of each parameter were converted into corresponding musical notes. A professional musician then selected harmonic movements, instruments and sound effects to finally create the ten celestial tracks in The Sounds of Stars playlist.

The melody of ‘Sun’, for example, is based on the frequency of solar flares over the past 60 years. ‘Eclipsing Star’ is a waltz, where two melodies revolve around each other, just like the two parts of the double star Beta Lyra. ‘Galaxy’ is the actual photo of the galaxy NGC 2442 in the Flying Fish constellation converted into data and fed into a spectral acoustic synthesizer. The new Yandex Music collection also has a bonus track with musicians, programmers, astronomers, and other experts discussing the connection between technology and creativity.

The Sound of Stars was created by the Yandex Music team together with professional astrophysicists. Astronomical data for the tracks was provided by the RadioAstron Project, the Astro Space Center at the Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), the Space Weather Forecasting Center (SWPC), and NASA.

The Sound of Stars isn’t the first experimental creation that uses Yandex technologies. Yandex Music released its parametric debut album, Nonhuman Music, in 2019. It included compositions created by human musicians together with a neural network. In 2016, Yandex made the album Neural Defense inspired by the work of Yegor Letov with lyrics also written by a neural network.

Listen to The Sound of Stars now on Yandex Music.

Yet another Conversation 2020: Yandex Talks About What Matters and How It All Works

This year, Yet another Conference (YaC), our annual corporate conference on technology and innovation, has become “Yet another Conversation” — a virtual event that combines the presentation of our latest products and technologies with an open and candid conversation about our culture and values. The heads of key Yandex services talk about the thought process behind their products, discuss their plans and aspirations, and show what they have accomplished over the past year. They also discuss the challenges they have faced and how they managed to overcome them.

Some of the topics that we address include: recent developments in the driverless world, opportunities and challenges in delivery logistics created by the pandemic, and the latest capabilities of Yandex's core search technologies. 

Tigran Khudaverdyan, the Deputy CEO of Yandex, sat down with the well-known journalist and blogger Alexey Pivovarov to weave these stories together and to reflect on how Yandex has fared during the pandemic.

One of the highlights of YaC 2020 is YATI (Yet Another Transformer with Improvements) — a neural network based on the Transformer architecture, which allows us to evaluate semantic relationships between user queries and the content of web documents. Transformer architecture has several key advantages — it works not only with short texts, such as queries or article titles, but also with longreads. YATI is able to identify the most significant sections of a text and take that into account while delivering search results. YATI is also able to “understand” the relevant context, such as the sequence of words and how words affect each other. Overall, YATI is several million times more complex than our previous generation neural network and is one of the biggest updates to our core search technology in the last ten years.

At YaC 2020 we also presented a new addition to our family of smart speakers with the built-in intelligent voice assistant “Alice”. The new Yandex Station Max is the most powerful smart speaker produced by Yandex to date. It features advanced Dolby Audio technology for a perfect audio experience, 4K HDR for streaming films in crystal clear quality, and an interactive LED screen to visually augment Alice's replies.

Yandex Station Max has five speakers producing a total of 65W of power. Multiroom technology allows this device to be connected to other Yandex smart speakers, creating a continuous soundscape in your home.

Other new Yandex services highlighted at YaC 2020 include one-click delivery of Yandex Market purchases via Yandex Go, new features in the Yandex.Fuel app, an updated Yandex Search app with a personalized feed and new opportunities for our e-commerce partners in Yandex search. 

Watch YaC 2020 on YouTube.

Registration is Now Open for Yandex Cup – Yandex’s International Championship in Competitive Programming

Yandex’s third annual competitive programming event, Yandex Cup, will take place from October 19th to November 7th this year. This event will include tracks in front-end development, back-end development, mobile development, analytics, machine learning, as well as an olympiad programming track, formerly known as Yandex.Algorithm

Registration is open until October 25th on the Yandex Cup website. Sign up today! 

This year’s event is aimed at professional and advanced programmers over the age of 18 living in Russia or a CIS country. These eligible participants will be competing for prizes totaling 3.3 million rubles ($45,000). The competition’s Algorithm track is open to international participants over 18 years old. 

The tasks for Yandex Cup are unconventional, as they always are. They have been created by leading Yandex experts who develop core services such as search, self-driving vehicles, and ecommerce systems. Yandex’s programming competition is designed to challenge even the most advanced programmers, however, some of the tasks will be designed to allow beginners to also participate. 

The trial round, which will give participants a chance to familiarize themselves with the competition and its rating system, will start on September 21st and will last until October 18th. The main competition will begin with qualification rounds on October 19th and will last until October 25th, with finals scheduled for November 7th. Contestants can choose to participate in multiple tracks in the trial and qualification rounds, but the finals will be limited to participating in only one track. An online awards ceremony will take place on November 21st.

Yandex Cup was launched two years ago as an annual international programming competition. It had 9,129 participants in its first year and 12,500 in its second. Yandex has a strong tradition supporting competitive programming, including starting Yandex.Algorithm in 2011, as well as software development contests Yandex.Blitz and Yandex Programming Championship, all of which are now part of Yandex Cup. 

Join Yandex Cup 2020 to win cash prizes and find your place among some of the best programmers on this planet! 

Turkish Digital Music Hackathon Helps Spur Innovation in Yandex Music

At the end of July, Yandex Music sponsored the Online Music Hackathon. The event was hosted by one of Turkey’s most innovative universities, Özyeğin University, and saw more than 50 current and former students develop creative predictions for the future direction of how we will consume and find music online. Experienced Yandex team leads, project managers and products owners both mentored the students through the hackathon and judged the highly innovative prototypes they produced.   

The Online Music Hackathon focused on social music discovery and interaction, brought together engineering, marketing, business, social science, architecture, and design students and graduates spend 72 hours developing their ideas into practical solutions. With the help of Yandex mentors, each of the 13 participating teams delivered an exciting product concept ready for further testing and validation in real life. 

This hackathon allowed me to understand how broad the music industry actually is, and also made me think it would be enjoyable to shape my design career through music. – Kumsal Kurt, Faculty of Architecture and Design, Department of Industrial Design, Özyeğin University

Özyeğin University, a young and vibrant research university with a strong focus on engineering and modern technology, was a natural partner for Yandex. In addition to meeting many talented and passionate individuals and creating boundary-pushing products, Yandex gained valuable local perspectives on the future of online music discovery and found new opportunities for further innovation and collaboration with a community of impressive young professionals. 

The winning team demonstrated their knowledge and talent by developing a prototype for how music streaming can be combined with users' location to provide new ways to discover music and interact with others. The two runners-up created a novel way of sharing music with friends, and innovatively described a social listening experience that could be shared with others in real time. Two additional projects worthy of special mention included a solution for discovering and supporting local independent musicians and a game-like app for sharing and finding music based on location. 

“The Online Music Hackathon by Yandex was an amazing opportunity for our students, especially during these difficult times. Bringing our alumni into the competition brought additional perspectives to the event. We are proud that Özyeğin University was selected to host this hackathon that connected our students and alumni with Yandex experts. It was a great learning experience for all participants. We look forward to further partnership opportunities with Yandex,” says Melda Çakıcı Alpaydın, Director of Sectoral Education & Professional Development at Özyeğin University.

“Open innovation and collaborative product prototyping with external communities are required to create relevant digital services. This is especially important when operating in global markets. Thanks to Özyeğin University, we have established a great R&D collaboration between Yandex and the extremely talented students and graduates in Turkey. This will help us innovate our existing products and create new meaningful experiences for music lovers across different cultures,” says Aleksas Drozdovskis, Chief Strategy Officer and Global Product R&D, Yandex Media Services.

Yandex Music has always been committed to staying ahead of the curve. Launched 10 years ago, Russia's most popular audio streaming service is now available in 14 countries and makes personalized recommendations of its 65 million music tracks and 100,000 podcast episodes to its 20 million users per month.

The Ilya Segalovich Award Celebrates Outstanding Talent in Computer Science

The annual Ilya Segalovich Award ceremony took place for the second time, this time – online. The award, established by Yandex last year in honor of the legacy of one of its co-founders Ilya Segalovich, celebrates special achievement in computer science and related fields, and is awarded to young researchers and academics working in Russia, Kazakhstan or Belarus. 

Last year's award was shared among 13 winners, including nine graduate and postgraduate students and four academics, who pushed the boundaries in their respective fields. Their scope of study ranged from detecting plant disease using computer vision and video object tracking, to detecting emotional subtleties in text and creating automated translation algorithms for rare languages.  

This year the total sum of 15 million rubles ($210,000) was awarded to three academics and nine young researchers. Their work focused on problems in 3D computer vision and video generation, stochastic optimization, deep learning, reinforcement learning, positive-unlabeled learning, generative adversarial networks, Bayesian deep learning, representation learning, multilinear algebra and exploratory search. 

“Yandex’s products and technologies have always been driven by science. Applied research, however, is not the only center of our attention. We are deeply interested in theoretical research, as well. This is what drives the entire IT industry and can lead to impressive future results,” says Mikhail Bilenko, head of Machine Learning Research at Yandex. “We established the Ilya Segalovich Award to support graduates and postgraduates working in machine learning and other promising areas of computer science. Talented students often have to leave their studies for the sake of an early career. We would love to give them an opportunity to continue their fundamental research.”

We have always relied on world-class research to develop our products and technologies. A number of leading scientists have been a part of the Yandex team or collaborated with Yandex in various capacities at different points in time. The Ilya Segalovich Award Committee includes top Yandex executives as well as leading scientists, such as Ilya Muchnik, Professor at Rutgers University and Academic Director of the Yandex School of Data Analysis, Stanislav Smirnov, a Fields Medal laureate and Professor at the University of Geneva, and Alexei Efros, Associate Professor at UC Berkeley. 

The Ilya Segalovich Award, along with the eponymous scholarship for computer science at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, is part of Yandex's commitment to support fundamental research and professional development, including through its Educational Initiative, a multimillion dollar investment program for educational projects and services. 

With over 30 educational projects and services currently offered by Yandex, the company has a strong tradition supporting educational initiatives and partnering with the leading universities in Russia and other countries. We have been nurturing exceptional talent in mathematics, data science and related fields through our School of Data Analysis in Moscow and other locations in Russia since 2007, and through its branch, Y-Data, in Tel Aviv and Beer-Sheva. Last year we launched Russia’s first online English-language master’s program in data science in partnership with Coursera, based on the Computer Science Faculty at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. 

We will continue to support people who are passionate about what they do, especially when they do it for the benefit of others. 

Yandex Reveals Plans for New Headquarters in Moscow

As life is gradually coming back to normal, we are now announcing the project of our new Moscow home. 

Located south of the city center on the current site of the Korston hotel, the Yandex headquarters will become a new local landmark, with its unusual silhouette, titanium-plated facade, and a publicly accessible covered atrium connecting the building with its surroundings.

The area around the building, as well as the first two floors with cafes, pharmacies, beauty salons and other businesses, will be open to the public. Public spaces around the office will offer an opportunity to relax, eat, or exercise. Yandex will also re-develop an area near its headquarters, creating a green park that connects the Akademik Zelinsky Street with Akademik Zeldovich Street.

The new Yandex home will be technically advanced and at the same time comfortable to work in. From the start, the building will be designed to easily accommodate both regular office workers and those remote workers who only visit the office occasionally. Lots of compact meeting rooms around the office will be perfect for meetings with colleagues who work remotely. The new office will also feature cafes, canteens, coffee shops, a gym, a basketball court, squash courts, as well as a swimming pool and a spacious roof terrace.

In addition to being a home to company employees and a comfortable public space for local residents, the new Yandex headquarters will also become a large educational hub with presentation rooms, classrooms, a lecture hall and a computer technology museum. Yandex will use its facilities to organize public lectures, master classes and presentations.

The new headquarters will match the local architecture. It will be of approximately the same overall height as the current Korston hotel, while the wings closest to nearby residential buildings will be lower. Architects were particularly considerate of the neighborhood when they designed the new Yandex home. Gagarinsky District has a special meaning to Yandex. Many current and former employees grew up in this area and still live there. This is where some of Moscow's leading research institutes are based. And this is also the area where Yandex began. The company's first office was nearby, on Vavilova Street.

Yandex employees will be able to access the new office on foot, on bike, or using a free shuttle bus from the University metro station, the Leninsky Prospekt metro station, or the Ploshchad Gagarina station. The free shuttle bus will also be available to the public. The office will also feature multi-level underground parking facilities for those who prefer to use their own car, while a part of the parking space will be reserved for Yandex.Drive cars.

The new Yandex headquarters has been designed by the London-based bureau PLP Architecture, with the firm's president Lee Polisano acting as the chief architect of the project. Russian architectural bureaus APEX and RTDA have also been involved in this project. In addition, Arteza bureau, which helped to create Zaryadye Park and participated in the renovation of Luzhniki Stadium, will spearhead landscape design. MR Group will be the project's developer. 

Dismantling of the Korston hotel will begin before the end of this year, while construction of the new Yandex campus will start after the project documentation is approved and all the necessary permits are obtained.

Bringing the Classroom Home with Yandex.School

With schools closed and millions of children home during the COVID-19 outbreak, communities everywhere are faced with the challenge of ensuring that their children can continue learning.  Yandex has over thirty educational programs spanning from early education to graduate-level courses.  We are excited to apply our thirteen years of expertise in this field to help families navigate the challenges of homeschooling. Together with the Center for Pedagogical Excellence in Moscow, we created a free online education platform, Yandex.School, to help students, teachers, and parents follow the school curriculum from their desktops and smartphones at home.  

Yandex.School provides free access to online lessons for grades 5-11 and tools for recording and sharing classes for first through fourth graders.  Yandex.School is available in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus.  Our online school is in session during regular school hours and adheres to the state curriculum, providing a sense of normalcy during the pandemic.

We invited educators from some of the most respected schools in Moscow to help us create and deliver online lessons. Many of the teachers have authored textbooks and are seen as the foremost experts in their field. We are very grateful to the more than one hundred of them for their quick response, collaboration, and commitment to ensuring that learning remains a priority during the pandemic.

“Even in these difficult times, it is important for children to have an opportunity to learn,” says Elena Bunina, General Director of Yandex in Russia. “Even if they can’t attend school in person, they should still be able to learn at home. In order to bring a complete learning environment home for millions of children, we created the Yandex.School. Thanks to our cooperation with the Center for Pedagogical Excellence (CPE) in Moscow, we managed to launch our online school in record time. Yandex provided the necessary infrastructure and educational services to our partners at CPE to create the first lessons. While there’s currently a great demand for services like Yandex.School, we also look forward to supporting traditional education with this platform once the children can to go back to school.”

During the first month of Yandex.School, we were thrilled to see that students viewed our lessons over three million times and that peak usage was over 40,000 students participating simultaneously in online lessons. In addition, over 20,000 new teachers  joined our education platform in the first week since the shelter-in-place order was issued. We look forward to welcoming even more students and teachers in the months to come!  

Learning at Home for Grades 5-11 with Yandex.School 

We designed Yandex.School to provide continuity for millions of Russian students now learning from home.  During the regular school hours of 9:00 am-2:00 pm across all of Russia’s eleven time zones, we stream live lessons on more than a dozen different subjects.  The lessons follow the national school curriculum and range from algebra and geometry to social studies and physics.  Beyond the regular curriculum, we also designed state exam prep lessons for 9th and 11th graders.  

Our video lessons are organized by grade so that the students can follow the same material that they would be learning in school. At the end of every school day, lessons are uploaded to Yandex.School. If students miss a live lesson or want to revisit a class, they can access all the video courses on-demand. For students who wish to prepare for the week ahead, we upload weekly lesson plans just before the school week starts.  

The flexibility of Yandex.School allows teachers to use the program in whatever way best suits the progress of their students. Teachers can use Yandex.School as a single resource or incorporate it into other remote learning programs. Schools and teachers conducting remote lessons using other platforms can selectively add certain Yandex.School lessons into their lesson plan or utilise the interactive homework assignments. Yandex.School can also serve as a temporary remote learning platform while schools move their classes online. 

Yandex Resources for Teaching Younger Students in Grades 1-4 

For primary school-age children, we introduced broadcasting tools on Yandex.School. The tools allow teachers of grades 1-4 to plan and record their lessons, which children can then watch online. Teachers can use these tools to continue teaching their curriculum by moving their lesson plans onto our platform. Yandex.School also offers live, interactive text chats to allow teachers to engage with students in real-time. Students and teachers can share images and videos via the chat function to supplement the lessons with additional visuals and explanations. Yandex.School also offers over 50,000 entertaining and informative assignments that students can work on remotely. Parents also can use these activities separately from the teachers.  

Supporting Families in the Months to Come

Yandex.School is a great tool to help students and teachers adapt, while also aiming to give families a sense of normalcy during these challenging times.  In addition to assisting children in sticking to a routine, this platform provides easy and intuitive ways for parents to monitor and manage their children’s studies. 

We are very appreciative of our academic partners and the teachers who helped create Yandex.School.  We wish all of our students and teachers happy and fruitful learning in their new online classrooms!  

Check out Yandex.School (in Russian) to learn more.  

Fighting Price Gouging and Meeting Ecommerce Demand During COVID-19

As COVID-19 spreads, the uncertain situation has led many people to rush out and stock up on essential goods.  Since this results in shortages and empty shelves, people are increasingly having trouble finding staple goods. With additional stay home orders in place, online shopping has become an even more critical service for users.

As a major eCommerce provider in Russia, we have a responsibility to do what we can to ensure that everyone who needs essential goods can find them.  Between our two platforms, Yandex.Market and Beru, we serve a daily audience of more than five million people.    

To help fairly spread resources to these people, we have implemented new policies to limit shortages and prevent price gouging by third-party sellers.  Since our two platforms run independently, we have introduced different policies on each platform. 

Yandex.Market Updates for COVID-19

Yandex.Market, our eCommerce marketplace platform, is more carefully monitoring prices and the assortment of goods in specific product categories.  Sanitizers, medical masks, cereal, canned goods, and hygiene products are in especially high-demand right now and have been for some weeks.  

Within these categories, the Yandex.Market algorithm monitors the price charts and can detect any dramatic price increase (twice or more).  We will temporarily disable a merchant if we find at least one product with an inflated price. Over the past week, we deactivated 300 stores that sold products at inflated prices.  After deleting the entire assortment of goods with inflated prices, a store can reinstate its operation on our platform. 

At the same time, we appreciate there is a lot of pressure on stores right now, so we have adapted our quality control measures to keep the products moving efficiently. Among other changes, we have suspended our regular shopping cart checks and only check in some instances, such as when we receive a signal that the store is not operational. 

To increase safety for customers and couriers, we are also promoting certain measures to minimize the spread of the virus when receiving online orders. In Russia, cash on delivery (COD) to the courier and other in-person exchanges at pickup centers are typical eCommerce practices. We are encouraging users to pay for their items via contactless payment methods and choose other shipping options.  We also suggest customers carefully wash their hands after handling their packages.  

Beru Updates for COVID-19

With Beru, our end-to-end marketplace that we run with Sberbank, our team is also committed to ensuring a steady supply of staple goods at fair prices.  The Beru team set a maximum price for certain product categories and will only display products that are priced accordingly. Categories such as groceries, canned goods, hygiene products, and household cleaners will remain at fixed prices for the foreseeable future.

On top of our efforts to keep Beru products at reasonable prices, we are doing everything possible to deliver goods to our users’ homes on time and have strengthened our delivery capacity. To reduce the likelihood of physical contact, we also added the option for users to have couriers leave prepaid orders at their door. 

We have also taken a number of additional steps to help our partner stores on Beru.  We improved the process for integrating new merchants onto the platform so that we can more quickly respond to high demand.  We limited our merchant suspension policies only to cover extreme violations such as counterfeiting and price gouging. We are also enabling more flexible shipment time (from two days to three) for our partner retailers who operate through drop shipping.  

While the majority of our office team members are working from home, we are committed to helping people and are working around the clock to support our community.  Special thanks to our team members in logistics centers, as well as couriers who continue to bravely navigate cities during the COVID-19 outbreak!  

Take care of yourself and your loved ones!