To Google or… to Yandex?

Thu 9 February 2012 16:40, Tamara Yadvichuk

To Google or… to Yandex?

As promised, here’s my overview of the features that Yandex, the Russian search giant, offers its users, compared to Google. Yandex’s unique advantage is that it was created specifically for searching in Russian, considering Russian morphology and grammar. But let’s not go into the mechanics right now (see artcile on Yandex search algorithm) and look at what Yandex has to offer from the user’s point of view.

At first glance, Yandex with its crowded homepage looks more like Yahoo rather than Google, with email, news, weather, picture of the day and all kinds of other features ( that is, the dot com version is much simpler). Google fans will probably find it chaotic, but it may be convenient for people who actually use those services regularly. Among other features Yandex has the following:

  • Image search similar to that of Google; Yandex offers a slideshow option, while Google allows you to start the search by dragging the image directly into the browser window
  • Yandex Music – free online player of legal music for users from Russia (feature of questionable utility for countries where music is so easy to download, but, well – Google doesn’t have anything like that)
  • Yandex Money – an e-commerce payment system convenient for online purchases, especially keeping in mind that Yandex operates in the part of the world where ‘money’ still means paper bills, not bank accounts
  • Yandex Fotki – a free photo-sharing service with unlimited storage space, similar to Yahoo’s Flickr (no exact alternative on Google, can be compared to Google+)
  • – a system for controlling online traffic similar to Google Analytics
  • Yandex Market – online shopping for Yandex users
  • Yandex News – news, mostly from Russia
  • Advertising on Yandex is similar to advertising on Google; Yandex offers a number of ways of payment (through local banks, Yandex.Money system, even cash machines!). On the other hand, Yandex has a minimal spending limit of $700, Google doesn’t. 

The undeniable advantage of Google Maps is global coverage. But consider the following: how often do you need to look at a map of a place other than the one you live or work in? The answer for most people would be ‘not so often’.

Yandex provides detailed maps of only 210 Russian and 57 Ukrainian cities (plus two cities in Kazakhstan and one in Belarus) – but those maps are equipped with some handy options that Google doesn’t have. First of all, a great convenience for the Russian speakers is that all the writing on Yandex maps is in Cyrillic. Unlike Google, for big cities Yandex provides accurate directions for public transportation and allows its users to keep track of road traffic.


Yandex’s street view (called Panorama) covers more cities in Russia and Ukraine than Google’s, and for a few cities with a subway Yandex has a simple interactive map which can tell you where to switch stations and how long the trip will take (if you want to look up the subway route in, say, Kharkov, Ukraine, Google will kindly send you to the homepage of the local metro, which is anything but user friendly). This may not sound like a technological miracle to people from developed countries, but in Russia and Ukraine Yandex maps are indeed very useful – largely because the alternative is often a paper map.

The verdict: when in Russia do as Russians do

For Russian users, Yandex definitely has a lot of benefits, especially for people living in big cities. If you can’t read Russian, Yandex won’t be a lot of help though. I’m a dedicated googler myself, but searching for Russian results I would definitely consider using Yandex. What do you think?

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