Type of site
|Social networking service|
|Available in||80+ languages|
|Created by||Pavel Durov|
|Revenue||$133 million (2016)|
|Alexa rank||15 (September 2017)|
|Users||447,400,000+ as of September 2017|
|Launched||October 10, 2006|
VK (VKontakte; Russian: ?, meaning InContact) is a Russian-based online social media and social networking service. It is available in several languages but it is especially popular among Russian-speaking users. VK allows users to message each other publicly or privately, to create groups, public pages and events, share and tag images, audio and video, and to play browser-based games. It is based in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
As of January 2017 VK is ranked 15 (as of September 2017) in Alexa's global Top 500 sites. It is the most popular website in Russia. According to SimilarWeb, VK is the 6th most popular website in the world. As of October 2016, VK also ranked as the most popular social networking website in Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan in addition to Russia., VK had at least 410 million accounts.
VKontakte was incorporated on 19 January 2007 as a Russian limited liability company. Founder Pavel Durov launched VKontakte for beta testing in September 2006, having just graduated from St Petersburg State University. The following month, the domain name vkontakte.ru was registered. User registration was initially limited to within university circles exclusively by invitation, but the site still grew quickly.
In February 2007 the site reached a user base of over 100,000 and was recognized as the second largest player in Russia's nascent social network market. In the same month, the site was subjected to a severe DDoS attack, which briefly put it offline. The user base reached 1 million in July 2007, and 10 million in April 2008. In December 2008 VK overtook rival Odnoklassniki as Russia's most popular social networking service.
Founder and CEO Pavel Durov owned 20% of shares (although he had majority voting power through proxy votes), and a trio of Russian-Israeli investors, Vyacheslav Mirilashvili (Mikhael Mirilashvili's son) and Lev Leviev, owned 60%, 10%, and 10% respectively. The original founders then sold a stake of 39.99% to Mail.ru Group (formerly Digital Sky Technologies).
On 29 May 2012 Mail.ru Group announced that it has decided to yield control of the company to Durov by offering him the voting rights on its shares. Combined with Durov's personal 12% stake, this gave him 52% of the votes. In April 2013, United Capital Partners bought 48% of VK shares from Vyacheslav Mirilashvili and Lev Leviev for $1.12 billion.
In 2013, the Mirilashvili family sold its 40% share in VK to United Capital Partners for $1.12 billion, while Lev Leviev sold his 8% share in the same deal, giving United Capital Partners 48% ownership. In January 2014, VK's founder Pavel Durov sold his 12% stake in the company to the CEO of Megafon, which is controlled by Alisher Usmanov. Following the deal, Usmanov and his allies controlled around 52% of the company. Shortly thereafter, the CEO of Megafon, sold his 12% stake to Mail.ru, thus allowing mail.ru to consolidate its controlling stake of 52% in VK.
In 2014, Pavel Durov sold his 12% stake to Ivan Tavrin, the CEO of Russian mobile phone operator Megafon. In April 2014, Durov stated he had sold his stake in the company after "coming under increasing pressure" from federal law enforcement to hand over personal details of users who were members of a VK group dedicated to the Euromaidan protest movement. VK canceled their IPO plans after the conditions after Facebook's IPO, which it saw as a failure.
On April 1, 2014, Durov submitted his resignation to the board; at first, due to the fact the company confirmed he had resigned, it was believed to be related to the Ukrainian crisis which started in February of the same year. However, Durov himself claimed it was an April Fool's Joke on April 3, 2014. On April 21, 2014, Durov was dismissed as CEO, claiming he failed to withdraw his letter of resignation a month earlier. Durov then claimed the company had been effectively taken over by Vladimir Putin's political faction, suggesting his dismissal was the result of both his refusal to hand over personal details of users to federal law enforcement and his refusal to hand over the personal details of people who were members of a VKontakte group dedicated to the Euromaidan protest movement. Durov then left Russia and stated that he had "no plans to go back" and that "the country is incompatible with Internet business at the moment".
In May 2017, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree to impose a ban on Mail.ru and its widely used social networks including VKontakte and Odnoklassniki as part of its continued sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea and involvement in the War in Donbass.Reporters Without Borders condemned the ban, calling it a "disproportionate measure that seriously undermines the Ukrainian people's right to information and freedom of expression." VK closed its office in Ukraine's capital Kiev mid-June 2017.
As with most social networks, the site's core functionality is based around private messaging and sharing photos, status updates and links with friends. VK also has tools for managing online communities and celebrity pages. The site allows its users to upload, search and stream media content, such as videos and music. VK features an advanced search engine, that allows complex queries for finding friends, as well as a real-time news search. VK updated its features and design on April 2016
As of May 2017, according to Alexa Internet ranking, VK is one of the most visited websites in some Eurasian countries. It is:
As of October 2016 the site is available in 83 languages, while advertisements are only shown in the Russian and Ukrainian versions. Russian-speaking users can choose between the standard Russian version and two extras: a Soviet version and a Pre-Revolutionary version. Other than language tweaks (e.g. telegrams for messages and comrades for friends), these versions contain other easter eggs. For example, all private messages in the Soviet version have a stamp saying 'passed server censorship'. The pre-revolutionary version uses old-style Russian orthography. Both extra versions are also ad-free.
Musicians that use VK for promotion often upload their own tracks to their official VK pages. Notable examples include the international celebrities like Tiësto,Shakira,Paul Van Dyk,The Prodigy,Dan Balan,Limp Bizkit,Eros Ramazzotti,Marilyn Manson,Moby, and The Offspring.
In 2008, the leading Russian television channel RTR sued VKontakte (then VK) over unlicensed copies of two of its films which had been uploaded by VK users. In 2010, this dispute was settled by the Russian Supreme Arbitration Court in favour of the social network. The court ruled that VK is not responsible for its users' copyright violations, taking into account that both parties agreed with the technical possibility to identify the user who posted illegal content and who, consequently, must incur the liability. Another ruling early in 2012 went partially in favor of Gala Records (now Warner Music Russia), a recording studio, when the same court ordered VK to pay $7000 for not being active enough in regard to copyrighted materials.
Since 2010, VK has also entered several partnerships with legal content providers such as television networks and streaming providers. Most notably, the Video on Demand provider IVI.ru that has secured licensing rights with all of Hollywood majors in 2012. These partnerships allow providers to remove user-uploaded content from VK and substitute it with legal embedded copies from the provider's site. This legal content can be either ad-sponsored, subscription based, or free, depending on the provider's choices. VK does not display its own advertising in the site's music or video sections, nor in the videos themselves. On October 2013, VKontakte was cleared of copyright infringement charges by a court in Saint Petersburg. The judge ruled that the social network is not responsible for the content uploaded by its users.
In November 2014, the head of The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, Maxim Ksenzov, said that Vkontakte will complete the process of legalization of the content at the beginning of 2015. At that time (November, 2014), negotiations between major labels companies and the social network Vkontakte were ongoing.
On May 24, 2013, it was reported in the media that the site had been mistakenly put on a list of websites banned by the Russian government.
Some critics have accused the blacklist of being simply the latest in a series of suspicious incidents to have happened to the website in recent months, as the Russian government look to increase their stake in, and control of the site.
On November 18, 2013, following an order from the Court of Rome, VK was blocked in Italy after a complaint from Medusa Film stating that it was hosting an illegal copy of one of its films. However, as of April 2015, the site has been reopened for Italian users and its mobile app is available on both App Store and Google Play.
Founder Pavel Durov was dismissed as CEO in April 2014 after he had failed to retract a (according to himself) prank April fools letter of resignation. Durov then claimed the company had been effectively taken over by Vladimir Putin's allies and suggested his ousting was the result of his refusal to hand over personal details of users to the Russian Federal Security Service and his refusal to shut down a VK group dedicated to anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny.
VK grants easy access to pornographic images, video and other such materials which are shared in certain communities. According to a study conducted by Kaspersky Lab, this makes the site dangerous to younger users.
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