The outbreak of COVID-19 is upending the lives of billions of people around the world. This situation has called on individuals and organizations across the globe to do their part to help communities everywhere. Now more than ever, people are turning to connected, intelligent services to help them overcome this uncertain time. Here at Yandex, we’re working to adapt our tools that help consumers and businesses navigate the online and offline world for the current reality. Even as our community of over 10,000 team members transitions to working from home, we’re diligently working on finding solutions that will help people during these challenging times.
Yandex Information and Tools on COVID-19
Access to accurate and reliable information is key to how people tackle the COVID-19 outbreak. As one of the top global search engines, Yandex is committed to ensuring we can help provide users with useful and accurate information.
We’ve created a simple, easy to understand platform for all things related to the coronavirus. When searching for “coronavirus” or related keywords on Yandex.ru, our search page presents users with a panel summarizing all information on the virus in one place. The coronavirus dashboard includes symptoms, how to protect one’s self and others, statistics on the outbreak, the latest news, and more.
We’ve included a series of recommendations from the World Health Organization, and we also present expert responses to commonly asked questions via our Yandex.Q community question-and-answer service. The blue concentric circles are an easy way for users to identify the information we’ve verified with health experts, including the WHO, Russia’s Ministry of Health, doctors, and more.
Our mapping team introduced a map for Russian speakers that will help them better track the COVID-19 outbreak globally. The map includes statistics within cities and regions to help users remain informed of the cases in their local communities, as well as cases in other countries. We source information for the map from a variety of sources, including the WHO, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, China’s National Health Commission, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and more.
We are also working on integrating our coronavirus search portal within Alice, our intelligent assistant.
Online Education Tools
Beginning on March 30th, we are adding remote learning tools to Yandex.Textbook, our free online education platform currently used by 22,000 primary schools across Russia. Teachers can hold live sessions, post homework assignments, and receive feedback from students. Students and teachers will be able to communicate with one another via chat and voice messages.
In collaboration with the Center for Pedagogical Excellence, we will also launch a fully online, freely available school for students in grades 5-11. Teachers will conduct lessons via our streaming services and Yandex.Tutor, an online task management service for courses. Some of Moscow's leading teachers will teach the classes using curriculums based on national standardized exams. To best replicate families' typical school-year schedules, we will host the lessons during normal school hours.
Our new distance education options join existing remote learning initiatives, such as our Coursera specialisations in machine learning. We encourage everyone to continue to rely on online learning tools throughout this period.
Yandex Mobility Services Safety and Updates
Beyond providing trusted information, we've also taken steps across our mobility products and services to better serve people impacted by COVID-19 and prevent the spread of the virus. As day-to-day life adapts to the new realities imposed by the coronavirus outbreak, there's been an increase in demand for courier-delivered goods. Yandex is proud to provide these services and retool them for higher demand, but we're also taking steps to ensure the safety of our couriers and users. Some of the actions we're taking to adjust our services to the current environment include:
Yandex.Taxi is taking steps to minimize the spread of contagions, like encouraging the use of cashless payments only, establishing stricter cleaning guidelines for drivers, and setting up central cleaning locations for vehicles in certain cities.
Cleaning staff for our car-sharing service, Yandex.Drive, are more thoroughly cleaning vehicles with extra strength, antiseptic disinfectant.
We are supplying Yandex.Drive vehicles with antiseptic wipes.
Within Yandex Self-Driving, we're using disinfectant to clean our autonomous vehicles.
Safety for Drivers and Couriers
We've established a fund to support drivers and couriers affected by COVID-19 across Yandex.Taxi, Yandex.Eats, and Yandex.Lavka, our grocery delivery service. The fund will support those who contract COVID-19 and drivers who are in contact with an infected person and must self-quarantine.
Guidance on the safe delivery of food and driving for couriers and drivers, along with quizzes and regular updates as the situation evolves.
Couriers can access cleaning materials in support offices.
We’ve set up locations in Moscow where drivers can undergo a medical check before beginning their shift, including measuring temperature, blood pressure, and a telemedicine chat with a doctor.
Delivery Service Updates
Yandex.Taxi will soon begin delivering over-the-counter medications from pharmacies with the recent introduction of legislation to enable this.
Yandex.Eats has simplified the procedure for restaurants to join the service.
Yandex Online Entertainment to Pass the Time During COVID-19
Besides the above changes, we’re happy to continue offering free services that can help people find ways to enjoy their time at home more. Our streaming service provides series, movies, live TV, and cartoons in addition to sports and cultural programs. Users can also listen to a free version of Yandex.Music and interact with Alice to get the latest news, play games, and have some friendly conversation at home.
We understand this is a challenging time for people everywhere, not just among our users and the Yandex community. We will continue finding ways to adapt our services to best assist people during the coronavirus pandemic, and we are happy to help people through this crisis in whatever ways we can.
Since we started our search engine in 1997, we’ve sought to connect people with the information most relevant to them. Over the years, we’ve updated Yandex Search with smart features and more informative results, making it as easy as possible for our users to navigate the mass of information that is the internet. Today, we’re excited to announce the latest advancements for Russia’s largest search engine. The Vega update brings 1,500 improvements to Yandex Search that help our 50 million daily search users in Russia find the best solutions to their queries. The most significant improvements from Vega pair machine learning with human knowledge and double our search index to deliver users better quality results at lightning speed, and we're excited to share more on the major updates with today's announcement.
With Vega, our search team has also introduced a uniquely human element to our users' search experience. We've updated the ranking algorithm with neural networks trained on data provided by real experts in several fields, providing users with even higher quality solutions to their searches. We're also connecting people with answers to their searches from qualified experts, through our new question-and-answer service, Yandex.Q.
The Vega updates not only make Yandex Search smarter, but also enable it to search across more of the web. Our search index is now twice as large thanks to a clever method for grouping similar web pages into “clusters.” We’re also now presenting these smarter results with as few clicks as possible thanks to improvements that will help bring users information faster, such as pre-rendering technology for mobile users.
"Our new search update combines our latest technologies with human knowledge,” says Andrey Styskin, Head of Yandex Search. “At Yandex, it's our goal to help consumers and businesses better navigate the online and offline world. With this new search update, users across the RuNet are helping us do just that. By contributing their knowledge, experts are enhancing our algorithms and helping our Search users, who continue to grow; over the past year, Yandex’s search share on Android in Russia rose 4.8% to 54.7% in early December.”
Machine learning with a personal touch
We’ve used machine learning in our search engine for a decade now, with this year marking our tenth year since adding our MatrixNet algorithm to Yandex Search. Machine learning remains a critical part of our search engine, but having the human element is vital, too; after all, who better than ourselves to understand what we’re looking for on the internet? People, or “assessors,” have long helped train our machine learning platforms through our crowdsourcing platform, Yandex.Toloka. Using our search result evaluation guidelines, the assessors in Yandex.Toloka complete tasks that help us find the most relevant results for specific queries.
With Vega, we've updated our ranking algorithm with a system where specialists in their respective fields now evaluate the work of these assessors. The professionals appraising the assessors range from IT administrators for data queries to hydrologists for searches relating to rivers. The expert assessors use over a hundred criteria to evaluate the work of the assessors, and our deep learning neural networks then receive these expert evaluations. By training our machine learning algorithms with expert assessments, our search engine learns to rank relevant information higher in results thanks to the work of a highly qualified group of individuals.
In addition to improving the quality of our search results with expert crowdsourcing, we’re also integrating answers to queries from real experts right within our results page. Yandex.Q is a service that combines our Yandex.Experts tool, introduced in last year’s Andromeda update, with content from the popular Russian Q&A service TheQuestion, which we acquired earlier this year. After a seven-month testing period, we’re now rolling Yandex.Q out to all of our search users. Yandex.Q features over a million answers from experts across many fields. Users can ask their questions in the Yandex.ru search field, and expert responses will appear at the top of the results page. For example, someone looking for information on Alexander Pushkin can see answers from a literary critic, or a search on the behaviors of seals will result in a response from the head of the National Arctic and Antarctic Museum.
Improving our search index with clusters
Each of our updates provides our search engine with smart tools for understanding complex queries and finding relevant results. With our 2016 Palekh update, Yandex Search began using neural networks to better process long-tail keywords, which are highly specific, multi-word searches. Our Korolyov update added the ability to search entire web pages rather than just titles, and could better understand the intent of queries. Last year’s update, Andromeda, enhanced the results page with tools to gauge the quality of a result and “quick answers,” which presents answers from experts on various topics.
Vega builds on our previous updates with intelligent improvements in how our search engine processes queries. Our algorithms use neural networks to now group pages into clusters based on their similarity. When a user enters a query, it's searched among the most relevant cluster of pages, rather than our entire index. Since using the clusters frees up more computing power for our search engine, we've doubled the size of our index without slowing the speed of searches. We can also better connect users with results for infrequent queries, as our search algorithms find rare web pages for the clusters along with highly visited sites.
Based on our search quality metric, which considers, among other factors, document relevance and source reliability, Vega's performance is three times better than Korolyov and six times better than Palekh.
Smarter results at lightning speed
The updates in Vega not only process search queries faster, but we’re also delivering people information quicker, with as few clicks as possible. Since March, Yandex mobile users on Android have been searching with pre-rendering technology, which predicts the user’s query and selects relevant results as the user is typing.
Thanks to this feature, now millions of users can instantly find the information they’re looking for on their mobile devices. The number of queries with an instant result has grown over 20% over the last year, and we’re planning to rollout pre-rending to more of our mobile users soon.
We’ve also made our Turbo technology universally accessible so that content providers can create fast-loading versions of their sites. Turbo-powered websites are light versions of full websites, which load about 15 times faster than regular websites. Turbo sites help us connect people with information regardless of how they access the web, as the quick-loading sites are especially useful for slow connections and mobile sites. As content providers expand Turbo to more of our search results, our users see relevant solutions for their queries quicker than ever. Users are now loading 75% of the lightweight Turbo sites in less than a second.
Our Vega update continues to make Yandex Search the smartest and quickest way for Russian internet users to connect with the most relevant information on the web. By pairing our machine learning expertise with the knowledge of real experts, our search engine brings together the best of artificial and human intelligence to connect people with the most relevant information. Give some of our best search features a try today at Yandex.ru!
Today, Yandex announced the latest update for its search engine. The “Andromeda” update has been rolled out by the Yandex search team over the last year and has included over one thousand improvements and features. The most notable of these features are:
Enhancing “quick answers” functionality in search results, including the introduction of Experts to help users get better answers to their queries.
Providing users with an easy way to recognize the most accurate and relevant sites directly within the search results.
Giving users a way to save searches in a visual format with the introduction of Yandex.Collections.
Andromeda builds on the prior Korolyov and Palekh updates, which improved users' search experience by better understanding complex, informal inquiries and intent. This year’s update continues to use Yandex’s machine learning expertise to create more intuitive ways for users to find information.
"Since the previous search update, Korolyov, our share of search has been constantly growing - on desktop it increased by 2.5%, and on mobile it increased by 6%. The quality of our search is one of the key factors for the growth of our market share. And today we present a new large-scale update, which includes more than a thousand improvements. Our search team has worked on them for more than a year,” said Andrey Styskin, head of Yandex.Search.
With quick answers, users receive results for their queries in a straightforward manner. Quick answers have been available for some time for simple searches, such as checking when a particular holiday falls. Recently, Yandex has improved the quick answers functionality to allow more complex searches, for example showing the Spanish soccer schedule and related media when “Spanish championships” is searched. A search for “cafe” demonstrates the full capability of these recent enhancements, as users can browse and compare local cafes by price, reviews, and photos without ever leaving the Yandex search results.
The new Experts feature enhances quick answers by providing users with the most accurate and relevant information directly within the search results. Actual human experts work with Yandex to offer advice and solutions on various subjects. Users can enter a query like “why don’t electrons fall into the nucleus of an atom,” and if they don’t see the answer in the results, they can directly ask a physics expert. Users can see the available categories of all Experts questions and answers in one place on the Yandex.Experts page (Russian).
In the search below for “how to tell a cat he is wrong," an Expert provides the user an answer in a box to the right of the results.
Aside from improving the search results through quick answers and Experts, Yandex is also helping users ensure the information they see is from reliable sources. Yandex’s search engineers have been continuously improving search results to ensure that the highest quality sources are presented first. The sites where users found what they were looking for, made repeat visits, and those without distracting ads are more likely to feature at the top of results.
Part of improving the quality of search results includes new visual features to help users identify the most accurate sites directly within the results. Unique algorithms determine how to allocate badges to high quality sites in search results. Checkmarks are shown for Yandex websites and the sites of organizations and social media profiles verified by Yandex. Large and popular sites will feature an icon of a green flame with their result, while those with high user engagement and repeat visits have a green crown.
The introduction of Yandex.Collections (Russian) is another major part of improving the search experience with the Andromeda update. Collections gives users a visual way to save their searches and their favorite content. Items can be saved to a Collection directly from the search results, whether they be links, images, movies, or locations. Collections can be accessed on desktop and mobile devices so users can see their favorite content wherever they are. Users can also follow public Collections; for example, if one is in the market for a new lamp, they can see the public Collections that other users have created dedicated to lamps, as shown below. These public Collections will be available directly from the Yandex search results.
Yandex is excited to continue to enhance the user search experience and demonstrate its machine learning expertise with the Andromeda update. Give some of the new features a try today!
Today, Yandex released a new version of its search platform, incorporating two important elements:
· An upgraded version of a deep neural network based search algorithm called “Korolyov,” named after a town northeast of Moscow that has long served as the center of Russia’s space exploration program.
· Incorporating Yandex.Toloka, a mass-scale crowd-sourced platform for search assessors into Yandex MatrixNet.
“Korolyov” builds on “Palekh,” Yandex’s first neural network based search algorithm released in late 2016. The update improves how Yandex handles infrequent and complex queries, known as long-tail queries, in two distinct ways.
First, “Korolyov” is better at understanding user intent than its predecessor because it examines the entirety of web pages rather than just their headlines. Second, “Korolyov” can scale to analyze a thousand times more documents in real time than “Palekh.”
Like all modern AI-based systems, “Korolyov” improves itself with each incremental data point. Yandex’s position as the largest search engine in Russia creates a positive feedback loop for our deep neural network algorithm, which leads to superior search results for our users.
"Korolyov" results feed into MatrixNet, Yandex’s proprietary machine learning ranking algorithm, where a number of other ranking factors are considered before results are returned to a user.
Recently, MatrixNet started incorporating data from Yandex.Toloka, Yandex's crowdsourcing platform, in addition to anonymized user data to train the machine learning algorithms.
With more than 85% of the smartphone market in Russia, Android continues to be the country’s favourite operating system. The great variety of devices within a $200 price range supporting this platform, among other things, has contributed to Android’s popularity with Russians who are happy to compromise some of their smartphone’s technical quality, such as memory space, for its affordability. ‘There’s an app for that’ doesn’t really do it for a lot of budget smartphone users.
To make life easier for the owners of budget Android-based devices we have offered them an all-in-one application for their everyday needs – from current weather, currency exchange rates or traffic conditions to what’s on in the cinema around the corner or the shortest way to the nearest bank or restaurant. We have reissued our search app for Android to provide our users with a one-tap access to our key services on their mobile devices.
The new Yandex app has expanded its functions beyond search to include quick access to email, news, maps, city navigation, taxi booking, or any other service available in Yandex’s product range. To use any of these services one doesn’t even need to have a corresponding app on their phone – the refurbished search app will take them to the mobile version of the service at Yandex.ru. The new Yandex app allows the owners of low-budget Android-based smartphones to enjoy the full mobile experience without having to compromise anything.
First announced in 2011, the Yandex search app now has a weekly user audience of over three million. The new app can be downloaded from Google Play. The users of Yandex.Search in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan will be upgraded to the new Yandex app when they update their current version.
The State Duma Committee on Information Policy and Communications has discussed a bill that requires search engine operators to delete hyperlinks to illegal or unreliable information, or even reliable information that refers to events that happened three years ago or more, from their search results on requests from individuals and without a court order.
Internet search is our core business. In more than 15 years in this market, we have put colossal human and financial investments into our search engine, first and foremost, to offer our users search results that are complete, unbiased and useful. If this bill is passed in its current form, a search engine based on these principles will be difficult or even impossible to develop. That is why we feel it is important for us to offer commentary on this bill.
According to its authors, this bill enables any individual to control distribution of unreliable or outdated personal information on the internet. In principle, this gives people a right, which is based on one of the most basic human rights – the right to privacy, including the right to control access to information about oneself. Unfortunately, the procedure offered in this bill does not stop information from being distributed online, but contradicts the basic principles of law and current legislation.
The current law does not permit limiting a person's right to access reliable information. The Constitution of the Russian Federation guarantees everyone the right to freely seek, obtain, transfer, produce and disseminate information by any lawful means (Article 29). The Federal Act ‘On Information, Information Technologies, and Information Protection’ also stipulates an individual’s or organization’s right to search and obtain any information in any form from any source (Article 8). This is exactly what a search engine does – searches for information available through any public source. This bill ignores the right to search for information.
The limitations introduced by this bill reflect imbalance between private and public interests. The need to seek and obtain information often falls within public interest and concerns public figures, whose actions can have an impact on the general public or private lives. This bill impedes people's access to important and reliable information, or makes it impossible to obtain such information. If this bill is passed, the information about a clinic or a doctor, a school or a teacher one is considering to choose, may be impossible to find.
In addition, the procedure for requesting a search engine to remove hyperlinks introduced in this bill opens the door to numerous opportunities for misuse, as it doesn't require any evidence or justification. A search engine, on the other hand, is required to delete an undefined number or hyperlinks to indeterminate web pages. This loophole can very conveniently be used by unscrupulous businesses to undermine their rivals, or by criminals to facilitate fraud.
But even if we assume that it is possible to equal adequate information with inadequate or illegal information in the right to be searched for, one question remains: who will study the information which is searched for, and decide whether it is legal, adequate, relevant or reliable? The bill assigns this role to search engines, while the functions of the court or law enforcement agencies are given to individual commercial organizations. Failure to comply with this role is punished with penalties and litigations.
This bill also ignores the basic principles of information technology and information search. It gives any person the right to request a search engine operator to stop providing hyperlinks to web pages that contain specific information, but it does not require this person to say which hyperlinks should be removed. All they have to do is provide the information, hyperlinks to which they want to be removed. Instead of deleting hyperlinks to specific web pages from search results, a search engine is expected to stop retrieving a piece of information on any search terms and regardless of its location on the internet. For this to become plausible, a search engine operator would have to find all pages containing this information that might appear in any place in search results triggered by any search term that a human mind can come up with. This step alone would take eternity. The next steps would require a search engine operator to make sure that these pages do contain the information hyperlinks to which were requested to be removed, and then confirm that this information is indeed inadequate or older than three years old. It is obvious that this is an impossible task.
Even though the list of flaws of this bill can go further, it doesn't make sense discussing them all at a point when the stipulated procedure itself contradicts the law and is technically impossible.
The links to be removed from search results mandated by the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union are specific, lead to specific information and appear on a narrow class of search terms. Hyperlink erasure is also considered on a case-by-case basis to make sure it does not limit access to important information or alter the balance between private and public interests.
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.
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.
At Yandex we’ve long been striving to tailor search results especially for every individual user – and we can already do it pretty well.
Our Personalised Search fetches results and delivers search suggestions individually for each user based on the many things we know about them – including their geographical location, language preferences, search history and clicks in search results. The user's search history tells the search engine what may be currently relevant for this particular user, and whether he or she would appreciate getting search results in English, for instance. Our MatrixNet machine-learning algorithms allow our search engine to look at users as live, multi-faceted human beings: gender, age, sphere of activity and domestic status are just some of the qualities it knows how to consider when delivering personalised search results and suggestions.
Well, naturally we couldn’t stop there, and we started thinking about how to take this great idea one step further. Once we’d developed personalised search, another idea arose: if we can personalise search results, why not personalise the whole internet? Introducing …. (drum roll, please) …. Atom!
Atom is one of Yandex’s new technology concepts. It allows any web resource to be adapted (or personalised) for nearly any person, even if they have not visited that web resource before but have a search history at Yandex.
For example, a site selling package tours is more likely to satisfy a user (and make a sale) if its main page only shows those tours that are likely to be of most interest to that user, based on his or her past behavior online. If a site can work out how to reconfigure its front page or catalogue according to the interests of any given person – and deliver what’s needed right at the start -- then it follows that the person will return to the site again and again.
How does it all work? We “talk” to a site through an API, telling the site what to show, in what order, in what priority, for each individual. We’d like to emphasise that we don’t give third-party sites any private information about the user – none of their cookies, nor their search history. We process all that information ourselves.
At present Atom exists on the level of a concept that we will be developing over the next few years together with the internet community. It’s an ambitious plan, which will work only if it gets the support of everybody – users, web site owners, web masters.
And who wins? First of all – users, who will get only relevant and useful information on their PC or tablet or smartphone screen. Imagine a newswire website where all new items are interesting for everybody. Nothing to be left unread. Or an e-commerce service delivering not only recommendations based on their own statistics, but considering much more extensive behaviour of a user in the internet. A personal internet – for each, their own – is coming. That would be the huge shift in upcoming years or even decades. Stay tuned!
Yandex has always been there to give answers. But then there comes a moment when giving answers becomes ‘not enough’. A large portion of the five billion searches that come from almost 100 million Yandex users each month are looking for a solution rather than an answer – people want to pay a bill, check-in for a flight, book a show or a visit to the dentist.
Using all our knowledge and expertise, all these years we have been developing products and technologies to figure out what it is exactly that our visitors are looking for and offer this to them in our search results. But even the most relevant of search results doesn’t always give a solution. Even if you can see in search results a link to the website where you can potentially book your movie ticket, you still need to click through to this site and possibly even browse a few pages before you find the booking form.
We have been thinking about offering web users a shortcut precisely to what they need, and we came up with a new concept of a goal-oriented search platform.
Yandex's new search platform embodies our new approach to search and website engagement, and features an attention-based search results page, where each search result is a standalone block of interactive information – an Island. These blocks are the first step to the user’s search goal and can be anything from factual information to purchase buttons or order forms.
While web users can instantly see and choose the best and most relevant solution to their problem, Islands enable website owners to directly connect with their visitors and enjoy handpicked target audience. Any website would like to see an interested visitor and about 15-20% websites on the Russian internet are using interaction to improve the quality of website experience for their visitors. Our new search platform embraces website owners catering for the interests of internet users. We are offering them an opportunity to choose what information from their site should be featured on Yandex’s search results page. Through our Yandex.Webmaster service, using a free and easy toolset, website owners can markup their pages and see what their Island will look like on Yandex’ search results page right now. Or see whether they need an Island of their own at all.
Right now, Islands are triggered by the same search algorithms as regular snippets, but we are working on giving websites an opportunity to tune their interactive snippets to specific search parameters, such as search terms, user’s search history, their location, and even their device. Prospectively, Yandex users looking for ‘The Great Gatsby’ on their personal computer will see a ‘film review’ Island, those searching for the same on their mobile device will find an Island with the show times at the closest cinema and a booking form, while an Internet-connected TV viewer will receive an Island with a pay-per-view page to purchase this film. This is the next step in Yandex Islands’ future development.
Yandex’s ranking is not affected by Islands, as such. A website’s natural position, however, does depend on the quality of the user experience it provides. The better is the website, the more popular it is with the users, the higher is the ranking. It is quite possible that web users may like a website more because it has an interactive snippet, but the mere fact of having such a snippet won’t propel a website to the top of the search results page.
By introducing the goal-oriented search, Yandex facilitates interaction between web users and websites. Our mission is to offer solutions to people’s problems by openly sourcing the best of the web and delivering it to web users. We would like to attract the actual content generators and publishers and see them actively participate in this process.
We are rolling out our new experimental search platform, Islands, first, for the eight million of Yandex users in Turkey. Yandex Islands is now publicly available at yandex.com.tr on personal computers and tablets in this country. The mobile version is expected to see the light later this summer. This is the first time we are launching a new search platform on a relatively new market, without first trying it out at home.
The Turkish market is not only new, it also has a young and open-minded demographic, which, we believe, is hard to scare by innovation. The new search platform’s success is largely in the hands of website owners and web publishers. We will focus on educating them about the benefits and possibilities of Yandex Islands in a series of free workshops, which will be open for all and where any website owner can learn how to make an Island of their own. Detailed instructions for creating interactive Yandex snippets for specific website categories, such as hotels, restaurants, airlines, or car services, will soon appear on the Yandex Islands specification pages.
Our users in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan will see their own Yandex Islands some time later this year.