There are uncertain times ahead for Google and other Western giants, such as Facebook, in Russia, in the wake of increasing restrictions on Internet freedom.
Google is closing its engineering office in Russia, in what appears to be a direct response to recent laws in Russia requiring foreign firms to store Russian users’ data on servers located locally. Russian authorities say the move is designed to improve data protection, critics conversely suggest it is a veiled encroachment on foreign firms.
This is the latest ruling that is likely to affect the spirit of openness on the Internet in Russia, bloggers with more than 3,000 followers for instance are now required to register their personal information with the government, a regulation that has been described as an intimidation tactic.
So what does the future hold for Google in Russia?
Short term, Google continues to flourish in Russia.
A recent poll carried out by Morgan Stanley showed that Google is increasing its market share against Yandex, Russia’s leading search engine, with a suggested 51% of mobile users in Russia stating they frequently used Google, over 41% using Yandex.
Google’s increases on mobile may be partly attributable to the widespread use of Android in Russia, but it is estimated that Google now has c34% of the overall search engine market share in Russia. (Source liveinternet.ru – Q1 2014).