In spite of consumers’ wide adoption of web-based instant messengers (IM) and voice-over-IP services, the downloadable IM client software remains the most popular means of Internet communications in Russia.
Two out of three leading Russian Internet companies have been lured by opportunity to sell advertisements to users of IM clients and thus launched their own branded versions of the software. The Russian market leader Yandex has yet to release one.
ICQ has some 6 million monthly users of whom 2 million are on Rambler-ICQ, a Russian-localized and enhanced version of ICQ promoted by Rambler Media. The company recently released a new version of Rambler-ICQ with voice, group conversation and game access features. It first launched a co-branded Rambler-ICQ service in September 2005 and sold advertisements in the service since February 2005. The company paid of $0.2 million in 2006 for exclusivity to promote the co-branded service in Russia and CIS countries.
Mail.ru Agent, an IM client promoted by Mail.ru has 4 million monthly users. It was first launched four years ago and now has both voice and video call features. Mail.ru’s own IM client could be one of the reasons why a South Africa-headquartered media and Internet group Naspers acquired a 30% stake in Mail.ru for $165 million in January 2007. Naspers owns a significant stake in the most popular Chinese IM service QQ.
The other downloadable IM clients that are worth trying out include a light instant messenger QIP and push-to-talk messenger Loudtalks.
QIP (or Quite Internet Pager) is emerging as a popular alternative to Rambler-ICQ and Mail.ru Agent among Russian students because of no advertisement and integration with various IM platforms.