January 25, 2007 |
Multinational media holding Naspers Limited has acquired 30% stake in Port.ru for $ 165 million. Port.ru owns one of the largest Internet portals – Mail.ru. Mail.ru is definitely the best-known and one of the most visited Russian portals: it receives 3 million unique visitors daily and about two billion monthly page views. Mail.ru is also ranked as the number one e-mail provider for Russian-speaking community.
You could definitely tell that email has almost nothing to do with Web 2.0. Sure, I can agree with you on that. But the thing is that Mail.ru is the first destination for any Russian person who starts his or her virtual life at all: the person usually goes to Mail.ru, registers an email account here and starts using it. That was what I did some 7 years ago. And something that today's 14-year-olds do now.
As for the email service offered by Mail.ru, it is definitely not the worst one I have seen. Moreover, I still use that 7-year-old account for some private messages and subscriptions to various spam-generating websites. Features are impressive for a local and absolutely free email service:
- unlimited storage capacity
- online interface
- pop3, smtp and imap support
- spam filter
When you register an email account with Mail.ru (three domain names available – mail.ru, list.ru, inbox.ru, bk.ru), you get access to quite an impressive number of services – some of them really Web 2.0 ones:
- Photo hosting
Blogs support groups, friends' networks, multimedia content. Russian pop celebrities blog here and have their blogs featured on the blogs home page. Although LiveJournal is a much more widely used service for Russian bloggers. But still it's here (and Mail.ru is among the leading Russian blogging platforms) and it's good enough for a beginning blogger.
Besides, Mail.ru offers a hellish lot of other services, similar to those provided by international portals:
- Photo and video hosting
Instant messenger (Mail.ru Agent) is available to all users with an email account.
I would not say that user interface is perfect here – but it is quite understandable and feature-rich. It resembles Yahoo much more than Google, for example – so I think you understand what I am talking about here.
There are some important disadvantages. First is that the website seems to be overloaded with banner ads – but Russian portals rarely provide and paid-for services and they need cash to support their existence). And second: Mail.ru accounts are used by spammers a lot (and you receive a huge number of spam messages to your inbox). But anyway you rarely see a spam filter similar to Gmail's anywhere but on Gmail, you know.
But still if you are not too choosy when it comes to user interface, you speak Russian and want to join the largest Russian online community (50 millions of accounts created since the portal's launch) – here is the place for you. And I would not tell that an average Russian first-time Internet user is choosy. So when a user starts virtual life, he does it here – and is provided with a vast range of opportunities.
My conclusion? I think the results are impressive. But not everyone is impressed, of course: Pete Cashmore puts it like this:
We can't say we're particularly interested in this Russian email provider and portal, but we're getting emails to say that the South-African media company Naspers will buy 30% of Mail.ru for $165M. The company serves around 24 million people and also has the largest dating and auction sites in Russia.
Sure, he may not be particularly interested. But we can estimate that the portal is worth $550 million – or one third of YouTube's value. Not bad for a local portal, don't you think so?