RuNet of Today

Vladimir Dolgov, Google Russia country manager

Since 1994 — the year when the .ru domain appeared on the web — the Russian Internet segment has been developing rapidly. Today, 15 years later, almost 37 million people go online monthly in Russia, creating, communicating and searching for information.

From being a place for proficient techy geeks and early adopters, the web has evolved to become a commodity, a living space for millions of Russian users. It has grown from a relatively small digital Russian-language niche of the global web, to one of the biggest and most dynamic markets, attracting multi-million investments, local and global players. From a service where several dozens of tech proficient users had been exchanging their ideas on writing codes it became a place where president of Russian Federation speaks to millions of Russian citizens.

In recent years the Internet has been one of the fastest growing industries. But the financial crisis has changed the way people and businesses use the web. In the slowdown the multimedia web has truly become a new way of going out for many people worldwide and in Russia. Users look for free or cheap services for entertainment — music, movies, games and sites for communication.

Free online video has become one of the hottest global trends of 2009. 20 hours of video is being uploaded to YouTube every minute. And people are not only exploring professional content, but more and more create their own.

Communication platforms as social networks is playing greater role than ever. According to ComScore research, Russia has the world’s most engaged social networking audience and one of the biggest and fastest growing mobile Internet markets in the world.

But the current economic situation has not only had an impact on the user’s experience of getting content, but also the way they search for information. People, saving money, more often look for product prices, comparing them and trying to find special offers and discounts. Even people who traditionally buy offline, more often make decisions based on information they get online.

The growing number of users spending more time online and searching for better prices on one hand and the necessity to optimize marketing budgets on the other, has forced many companies to pay attention to online marketing instruments. Marketers have found more affordable, more targeted and more flexible marketing tools on the Internet, like online advertising in general and contextual advertising in particular. According to Zenith Optimedia’s report, the local online advertising market will stay in 2009 the same as in 2008, even in the worst case scenario, and will be worth about 7.5 billion of rubles.

From a business perspective RuNet is still one of most attractive platforms, not just for marketing specialists but also for investors and business angels. But the crisis has changed the way investors and venture funds choose investment objects. They have become more deliberate in their decisions. The time of projects with unclear business-plans is over. Existing services have also changed their development strategies — Instead of simply aiming at the growing audience figures, the site owners are now looking for new ways of content monetization, activating more paid features.

Thus, despite the general decline in business activity, the Internet is staying one of the most rapidly developing industries for all involved groups — site and content owners, businesses and users. The RuNet will apparently play a bigger a role in lives of even more people and will become a way the biggest sales channel ever created.