Russia’s Yandex strikes deal to access Facebook content

15 January 2014

Russian internet giant Yandex has signed an agreement with Facebook to access all of their publicly available data in a number of central and eastern European countries, as well as Turkey, as part of wider efforts to improve their search results. The data will be available from Facebook users with “public” privacy settings in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Turkey as soon as it is published.

For example, a search for a review about Woody Allen film Blue Jasmine might yield a Facebook user’s public post if it is relevant. Vladimir Isaev, a spokesman for Yandex, declined to provide a detailed explanation of the technology but said: “Generally we will use likes, shares and, in future, comments on Facebook to define the relevance of web documents and to use this information when ranking search results.” He estimated there were several tens of millions of Facebook users in the former Soviet republics and Turkey but added that he was unable to disclose “the exact number and their privacy settings”.

While access to the data will allow Yandex to refine its indexing services, Facebook will benefit from the exchange by featuring more regularly on the Russian search engine’s results page. Yandex has similar deals with Twitter to access its “firehose” of data as well as VK, Russia’s answer to Facebook, and LiveJournal, the country’s main blogging platform. Facebook’s only comparable agreement with a search engine is with Microsoft’s Bing.

Social data has become hot property in recent years, especially for Twitter, where it has become one of the company’s main sources of revenue. Three sanctioned resellers — Gnip, Datasift and Topsy — sift through the raw data, which is then filtered and sold on to clients depending on their needs. Yandex follows in the footsteps of numerous other internet companies that have bought data analytics firms, such as Apple, which acquired Topsy Labs in December in a bid to improve its iTunes recommendations, advertising services and virtual assistant Siri.