Russia Plans State-backed Web Search Engine Named After Sputnik: Report

Credit: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov MOSCOW | Fri Oct 11, 2013 6:58am EDT MOSCOW (Reuters) – State-controlled telecoms group Rostelecom plans an internet search engine named after the Sputnik satellite, Vedomosti newspaper said on Friday, though analysts said the aim to muscle into the highly competitive Russian market was doomed. The government has made moves to boost control over the Internet, but a state-backed search engine, to be called www.sputnik.ru, would face leading search engine company Yandex, with 62 percent of the market, U.S. giant Google and Mail.Ru. “Search engines are a completely different area from the telecoms service business in which Rostelecom is involved,” said VTB analyst Ivan Kim in a research note. “With its lack of expertise, the venture is unlikely to meet with success.” Rostelecom did not immediately reply to a request for comment about the project, to be named after the first man-made satellite, which was launched in October 1957. The new search engine may have to be used by state institutions as a default tool, said Vedomosti, citing sources at Rostelecom and other Internet companies in its report. It said the project had cost $20 million so far. Kim said the plan looked like it was imposed on Rostelecom by the state and would most likely be a cash drain. Russia, with the largest internet audience in Europe, has increased state control over the Web, including launching a black list of sites distributing content such as child pornography, but which critics said could boost censorship. Rostelecom is trying to hire developers from rivals to work on the search engine project, expected to be launched in the first quarter of 2014, Vedomosti added. The project has so far indexed about half of the Russian Internet, it said. Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts said in a note that developing high-quality search technology may require the best talent and long research and development and that the quality of search results may be well below that of leading firms. “Even if the launch of Sputnik is well-executed, we do not expect it could significantly eat into the market shares of Yandex or Google,” the Merrill Lynch analysts wrote. (Reporting by Megan Davies and Maria Kiselyova, editing by Patrick Lannin)

Father to meet fugitive Snowden in Russia

spy agency contractor Edward Snowden’s father arrived in Moscow on Thursday to see his son, who was granted asylum in Russia after leaking details of government surveillance programs. Speaking at Sheremetyevo airport, where his fugitive son was stranded for weeks this summer, Lon Snowden said he had no direct contact with Edward Snowden for months, but felt “extreme gratitude that my son is safe and secure and he’s free”. The younger Snowden, 30, is wanted in the United States on espionage charges and Russia’s decision to grant him temporary asylum aggravated already tense relations between Moscow and Washington. Russian authorities and the Russian lawyer who is assisting Snowden, Anatoly Kucherena, have not disclosed his location. Fugitive Snowden’s father arrives in MoscowPlay video.” “I am his father, I love my son and I certainly hope I will have an opportunity to see my son,” Lon Snowden said. He told reporters he was “not sure my son will be returning to the U.S. again”. Snowden’s revelations about the reach and methods of the U.S. National Security Agency, including the monitoring of vast volumes of Internet traffic and phone records, have upset U.S. allies from Germany to Brazil. They sparked an international furore, with admirers calling him a human rights champion and critics denouncing him as a traitor. JOB SEARCH Lon Snowden said he did not know his son’s intentions, but believed he had not been involved in the publication of any information since he arrived in Russia and was “simply trying to remain healthy and safe”. Directly from the airport, he and the lawyer drove to a state television studio to give an exclusive live interview, indicating the visit was under strong government control. UK intelligence leaker Edward Snowden givevs an interview with The Guardian newspaper at an undisclo Kucherena expressed hope the former intelligence contractor would soon find a job in Russia – possibly in IT or the human rights sector – because he had largely run out of savings and was living modestly, mainly off donations.