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Facebook to gain street cred in Russia, with help from Yandex

Public posts from Facebook users overseas will start appearing within Yandex's search results

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Facebook could see a nice boost in its popularity in Russia, increasing its ability to compete internationally, through a new partnership with the Russian search engine Yandex.

Yandex, essentially the Google of Russia, announced on Tuesday that Facebook had granted it full access to its public "firehose" of data. That means Facebook users' posts in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and a number of other former Soviet Republic countries will appear on Yandex's main search results page. Anybody's posts about the latest news headlines or movies could appear, though the integration only applies to posts marked as "public."

The popularity of those posts will be taken into account when ranking Yandex's search results, the company said in its announcement. Previously, the public posts and profiles of Facebook users were only accessible by searching Yandex's blogs section. Yandex said there are no financial considerations involved in the partnership.

Yandex's search is already integrated with other social networking sites like Twitter, LiveJournal and Russia's VK, similar to how Microsoft's Bing search engine gives users data from their social networks in answer to their queries. The idea is to give people more context around their searches, without having to register or log into every social network individually.

Yandex said it would use Facebook's public firehose to make Facebook more prominent in, and improve the quality of, its search results.

On Facebook's end, its heightened visibility on Yandex's site could strengthen the social network's ability to compete against VK -- or Vkontakte -- Russia's answer to Facebook and one of the most prominent social networking companies in Europe. VK offers many features similar to Facebook's, and in public documents Facebook has identified the company as one of its biggest competitors.

Facebook and VK have enjoyed a bit of a rivalry. At a technology conference in San Francisco late last year, VK CEO Pavel Durov said that, compared to Facebook, "VK is faster, easier to use, and has more functionality."

Facebook could not be immediately reached to comment on the Yandex partnership.

Competition between Facebook and VK could heat up in other ways too. On the same day the Yandex search integration was announced, Gnip, a social media analytics company, said that it would be adding VK to its own data sources. Gnip's products, which also scrape sites like Facebook and Twitter for data, are designed to help other companies manage their marketing campaigns and run their business.

"While Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and others continue to see growth in Russia, VK is far and away the dominant social network," Gnip said.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com



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