The MoscowTimes reports that FaceBook is in talks on cooperation with Russian mobile operators and is opening up an office in Russia.
Within a few days, Facebook will announce the opening of its Russian office, said Unova Media, organizer of the Russian Internet Technologies conference, where Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s top software engineer, made a presentation. Unova received this information directly from Facebook.
Facebook is in talks with the three largest mobile operators in Russia, MTS, VimpelCom and MegaFon. VimpleCom is planning to incorporate an application for communicating on social networks into their Beeline brand.
Facebook’s goal is to reach 15 percent to 20 percent of Russian Internet users, said an employee at another operator. According to TNS Web Index, there were 32.6 million Internet users in February. The social network could get about 4.9 million to 6.5 million users, said Denis Terekhov, a partner at consulting agency Sotsialniye Seti.
Facebook face tough competition from Vkontakte, Russia’s biggest social network, who assert they already have over 70m users (counter on their site). However the actual figure maybe more modest, TNS Web Index suggested they had 18.37m users in February.
Vladislav Tsyplukhin, head of the press service at Vkontakte was dismissive of the latest news, “The Russian version of Facebook has been around for a while, and the appearance of a Russian office won’t affect its users”.
Facebook has a strong international brand though and recent figures in Russia have suggested their userbase is closer to 800’000 now. While VKontakte has captured a wider audience, Facebook tends to appeal to upmarket Russian users.