The man who runs Facebook met the man who (on paper at least) runs Russia this week. The 20 minute conversation appears to have explored ways the company can expand its reach into the country without falling foul of government restrictions on free speech.
Mark Zuckerberg met with Dmitri Medvedev who is officially known as chairman of the government of the Russian Federation and unofficially known as Prime Minister. He is in charge of the day to day running of the country, but works underneath the President and head of state Vladimir Putin. (The two have exchanged the roles back and forth in recent years, though Putin is usually seen as the more powerful figure regardless of titles.)
Zuckerberg has only said he had a “good conversation” with Medvedez, though Russian officials have confirmed the topics included the tech business as a whole, copyright laws and Facebook’s role in the US election campaigns.”
Even after the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia remains the ninth most populous country in the world. The New York Times notes that it recently overtook Germany as the European country with the most internet users.
With Facebook appearing to consistently hit a saturation point when its user base reaches 50 percent among Internet users in a country, breaking new markets is becoming an increasingly important part of its expansion. It’s main targets are countries that have a large population, have people rich enough to not only get online but be of interest to advertisers, and have enough online freedom for a social network to operate.
While that makes the likes of China and India elusive targets, Russia may fit the bill. The Times notes Russian users are particularly willing to spend cash on virtual products such as Facebook game credits. Meanwhile Russia so far seems to concentrate its censorship efforts on domestic sites, leaving overseas companies relatively free.
The discussions have raised concerns among Russia’s own tech industry however. The AFP news agency reports that Zuckerberg has attempted to recruit leading staff from several Russian internet firms.
(Picture credit: Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook)