Celebration of Choice – A letter from Arkady Volozh, Yandex CEO
In this blog post, I would like to share my reflections on the landmark settlement between Google and the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) (you can read the FAS press release here).
Today is an important day for Russian consumers as Google has agreed to take significant steps that open up its Android platform in Russia. Under the terms of the settlement, 55 million Russian Android users will be offered a choice of search engines on their mobile devices. Smartphone manufacturers will also have more freedom to select the apps that they preinstall on devices.
Several years ago, it became clear that the closed nature of Google’s Android inhibited our ability to provide a search option for Russian users on the most popular mobile platform. Google required Android smartphone manufacturers to ship devices with Google search as the default search engine and to place the Google search widget on the default home screen. Google also limited the placement of competing applications on Android devices. These factors created limits for how smartphone manufacturers could access the essential Android App Store - Google Play. These requirements made it challenging for search providers and other competing applications providers to pre-install their services on Android phones. Android was limiting options for users, smartphone manufacturers, and competitors – and all together restricting innovation. Yandex requested that FAS initiate an investigation into Google’s business practices. In 2015, FAS found Google’s practices to be anti-competitive and in violation of Russian antitrust laws.
As one of the largest internet companies in Europe, and the leading search and mobile applications provider in Russia, access to platforms is critically important for Yandex. Technology platforms make it possible for us (as well as other companies) to continue a rapid pace of innovation. But this is only possible if those platforms are sufficiently open to foster competition by allowing access to third-party developers. We are excited to have reached a solution that restores these necessary elements to ensure a more dynamic and competitive ecosystem.
I am thankful to the Federal Antimonopoly Service for applying the law in a manner that effectively and efficiently restores competition to the market for the benefit of Russian users.
I also want to thank Google, not only for their cooperation, but also for recognizing the value of openness. We have always thought Google plays a constructive role in the Russian market. Competition breeds innovation. It’s our desire to participate in a market where users can choose the best services available.
For the past 20 years, it has been our mission to help users better navigate the online and offline world. When I founded Yandex in 1997 with Ilya Segalovich, Elena Kolmanovskaya, and others, we shared a vision for the way search technologies would help people find information on the Internet. Over the years, our machine learning capabilities have grown, and with it our aspirations. Our mobile services, maps, eCommerce, classifieds, and on-demand transportation services have expanded our ability to help users on the go and in the moment with contextually relevant information.
I’m excited, together with the entire team at Yandex, to continue building products and services that deliver exceptional customer experiences. With open platforms, our future is bright. With choice, the possibilities are endless.