MOSCOW, October 11 (RIA Novosti) – A new state-run Internet search engine will go online in Russia early next year in the hope of biting off a chunk of the market controlled by Yandex and Google Russia, a Russian newspaper reported Friday.
The tentatively named Sputnik.ru has already indexed half of the Russian segment of the Internet and is expected to have done the other half by January, an unidentified official for the developer Rostelecom was cited by Vedomosti daily as saying.
He put total investment in Sputnik.ru at $20 million: a modest sum compared to the $100 million that Yandex, Russia’s leading search engine, annually invests in development, a Yandex representative was cited by the newspaper as saying.
State-owned Rostelecom is attempting to headhunt experience from Russian rivals for the project, including from Yandex, Google Russia and Mail.ru Group, Vedomosti said, citing unnamed sources in the Russian Internet industry.
The idea for a state-controlled Russian search engine was first pitched in 2008 by then-President Dmitry Medvedev, who disapproved of the coverage of the Russian-Georgian war that he saw online.
The Russian government has stepped up Internet regulation since 2011, following a string of large-scale opposition protests largely coordinated online. Critics have decried the process as creeping censorship.
The Rostelecom official denied that Sputnik.ru would use government resources to give it an advantage over rivals, saying that it would compete using market methods and would not engage in censorship.
However, Vedomosti said, citing industry sources, that Sputnik.ru will be the default search engine on computers at Russian state agencies and state companies.