Facebook just got into bed with Russia (well, more specifically, with Yandex)

Yandex is, for lack of a better concept, the Google of Russia. It’s the top site in Russia (Google is No. 4) and now, it just got into bed with Facebook. Basically, posts from Facebook will be displayed in Yandex search results — and you can comment on the post from the search results, as you see sometimes in the U.S. — and, essentially, Facebook just got almost free advertising (it’s a non-commercial deal) on a site that accounts for 60% of Russia’s search traffic. In exchange, Yandex gets free access (apparently) to the ‘firehose’ of data that FB maintains about users and preferences. In this way, it appears mutually beneficial: Facebook gets a good foothold in the Russian market — which, along with China, is one major area it hasn’t dominated — and Yandex gets access to user data that can help it program better, since people are often using social as opposed to straight search for web needs.

There are a couple of broadly interesting things here. First, Facebook isn’t really that popular in Russia right now; the primary social network is called ‘VK’ and basically lets you search for friends, as well as pirated movies and sex partners. (VK is extremely popular with a younger demographic, which is Facebook’s supposed biggest problem right now — teens aren’t adopting and the ones that have are leaving.) VK has 100 million active users, which is, of course, smaller than Facebook’s user base.

Another interesting aspect is that this deal, while it contains mobile elements, isn’t as much about mobile — and in that space, Facebook has other challenges it needs to figure out.

It also needs to be noted that Yandex already has a ‘firehose’ agreement with Twitter, so … it’s positioning itself pretty well in terms of accumulated data.

And finally, while Yandex and Facebook have been working together in various capacities since 2010, just last year Yandex tried to develop an app called “Wonder” (basically an in-network search engine) and Facebook blocked it, leading to Yandex eventually pressing pause on the whole thing. What a difference a year makes, eh?

It’ll be interesting to see what this means long-term. Could Facebook’s next big jump be into China and Baidu? Their CEO believes foreign firms will always struggle in China, but it seems like a potential next move (maybe pretty far down the road) for FB.

Ted Bauer