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Russia Said To Be Developing National Search Engine -Vedomosti

Published Wednesday, 7th July 2010 06:34 am - © 2010 Dow Jones


An adviser to Russia's president says the government has an interest in developing a new Internet search engine, business daily Vedomosti reports Wednesday.

The admission Tuesday by Leonid Reiman is believed to be the first by a Russian official about potential state involvement in a sphere dominated by private enterprise.

Executives of domestic Internet companies told Vedomosti that recruiting firm Arthur Hunt Group has been contacting developers at the top Russian search providers -- Yandex, and Rambler -- to work on the state's new project, which they said has a budget of $100 million. Work is to begin within three months, with the goal to have the search engine ready for users by the end of 2011.

Reiman, a former communications minister, wouldn't say which companies will be working on the project. He said the endeavor isn't the result of a government order but is based on "market history." Private companies involved will be supported by the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media, said Reiman, who didn't rule out the possibility of some government financing once the search service is up and running.

A ministry spokesman told the newspaper he was unaware of the search engine project. He said the ministry's purview doesn't include implementing "market-based projects."

Plans to develop a national search engine were discussed in 2009 by a presidential commission tasked with modernizing Russia's economy, but no results emerged, Vedomosti cited Kremlin officials and Internet company executives as saying at the time. Now, some of the officials say they didn't know about the project on which Reiman commented. Creating a competitor to existing search engines is pointless and expensive, one said. Another, a senior Kremlin official, wished the developers success, saying the project could benefit the state.

Internet company executives identified as potential contractors on the project Rostelecom (RTKM.RS), Russia's nationwide landline-phone operator; Abbyy, a private, U.S.-based provider maker of document-recognition software and online dictionaries; and Ashmanov & Partners, a Moscow Web-hosting and online marketing company that's working on search technologies. Managing partner Igor Ashmanov said only that he wasn't involved in hiring employees. An Abbyy representative declined to comment, but another source there said the company has only advised the project participants about its expertise in linguistics and morphology, which is the analysis of language structures. The project remains in its early stage and no funding has been allocated, this source said.

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