Russian Vkontakte adopts “ Invites Only” policy.

The biggest Russian social network Vkontakte has became the most visited website in Russia with 23 million visitors daily. To celebrate its success the founder of the network, Pavel Durov has introduced a new registration scheme. From the 11th of February 2011 the only way to become a member of the network is to receive an invitation from an existing user. On Vkontakte’s official blog Pavel Durov says that now it’s time to return to the “invites only” system, which was introduced in the very beginning of the network’s development. Now some users have rights to invite new members, whilst others don’t have such a privilege as yet. It’s not clear from Pavel Durov’s message on which criteria the members’ rights to issue invitations is based.

Vkontakte blog

Also in his post Pavel Durov emphasises the importance of using mobile numbers for user identification. He says that the only way for a user to access their account if they forget their log in details is via a mobile phone number. An SMS with a code will be sent to the number provided upon the initial account registration. In case a member fails to provide the a valid phone number it will be not possible for them to obtain access to their account.

A person can become a member of Vkontakte by submitting a code sent to their mobile phone by whoever invites them. The screenshot below demonstrates the new “No phone – no account policy”. The screenshot is in Russian, because the new regulations have not yet been translated to English.

The founder of the site hasn’t explained the reasons behind these unexpected changes. Considering the fact that Vkontakte has serious problems with spam this move can be the opening salvo with the spammers. However, the new rules will make a registration process much more difficult for some users and in some cases impossible. For example, if a foreigner who doesn’t have any Russian connections would like to become a part of the network? How can they solicit an invitation?

This change may restrict opportunities for international businesses to interact with the Vkontakte audience and create online communities inside the network. After listening to online discussions of Russian speaking bloggers about their reaction to the introduction of the new rules I have identified a few opinions.

  • Vkontakte is seeking ways of making more money by creating a mechanism of selling invitations.
  • Vkontakte is increasing its value by making it a more exclusive and desirable place to be, thus empowering their competitive position against Facebook and Odnoklassniki
  • Vkontakte wants to expand its database of members’ mobile numbers with an aim to sell it to businesses.

Obviously, these opinions belong to people who dislike Vkontakte. There is a very negative perception of the network by a small percentage of the online Russian population who don’t like mainstream projects and prefer more elite networks such as Livejournal, Habrahabr, Лепрозорий and Facebook.

Well, there is definitely space for speculation. Vkontakte is usually referred to as Facebook’s clone due to the very similar interface and features. However, Facebook doesn’t apply such undemocratic ways of restricting spam. Anyone can register to become a member and it’s absolutely not necessary to provide mobile numbers. In order to restrict spammers capcha forms are being used on Facebook which seem to work quite well.

It’s worth remembering that the laws about spam in Russia are far less strict compared to the US, thus making it much harder for Russian Internet enterprises to fight spammers. Hopefully, new changes will make Vkontakte a more pleasant place to be allowing their members to enjoy communication with each other with lesse spam on their walls and in their inboxes

Despite all the criticism, Vkontakte will remain the most popular social network among Russian speakers, due to its main feature: free access to the massive library of video and music files.

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29 Responses to “Russian Vkontakte adopts “ Invites Only” policy.”

  1. Tweets that mention Russian Vkontakte adopts “ Invites Only” policy. « Social media lessons from Russia and the UK -- Topsy.com Says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by RussianSphinx, Katya Trubilova. Katya Trubilova said: Russian Vkontakte adopts “ Invites Only” policy. http://wp.me/pRpQM-3z [...]

  2. Felix Says:

    You are SICK! Seriously!

  3. Felix Says:

    My friend who is already 4 years in vkontakte, doesnt have the ABILITY to invite people! This is CRAP! Seriously! You will lost your member and no one will join your site. If VK has the main feature: free access to the massive library of video and music files… Wait a minute! Isn’t that a LEGAL PIRACY? Dude, STOP the PIRACY!!! But VK is LEGALIZING the PIRACY!!!

  4. john Says:

    what the bloody hell is this way to stop spammers. rudy

  5. natali Says:

    hi, anyone would toss me invite to: natalica@live.com thanks much

  6. Clement Says:

    Dear all due to the current invites only policy, i am unable to join the social network service. which means i am unable to locate my friend who are using Vkontakte, anyone here can send me an invite for joining? my email is clt_ho@yahoo.co.uk

  7. trash Says:

    and me to [trashboxing AT gmail.com]
    thanks a lot

  8. Strat Says:

    Моя подруга пыталась выслать нме инвайт на мобилу в США. Ничего не вышло. VK может подавиться своим эксклюссивом. Остаюсь на ФБ и зову всех моих друзий туда.

  9. We Are Social’s Monday Mashup #67 / we are social Says:

    [...] Facebook becomes “Invite Only” A blog post from Katya Trubilova reports that Vkontakte, ‘the Russian Facebook’, introduced a new registration scheme in [...]

  10. sataniya Says:

    what the hell is that can any one invit me please this is my challenge with russa lol caramel-956@hotmail.com

  11. Joseph Says:

    Hello Dear Russian,

    I’ll appreciate if anyone could send me an invitation to VKontakte.

    Even my russian friend haven’t ability to send invitation.

    My mail: y_bey@yahoo.fr

    Please. Thanks.

  12. screamo Says:

    please somebody with an account on this site invite me, i lost my old account and all of my friends when i moved to canada :( my email is evan_screamo_exile@hotmail.com

  13. Frank Says:

    Dear Russian,

    Russia is a great country and Russian are high-quality people!!!
    I appreciate you kindly send me the VK invatation and I’m eagerly to know your country much more!
    My email address : uc4russian@gmail.com

  14. Nathan Says:

    Just wondering if someone will invite me to vK
    my email brokenhorsemidale@hotmail.com
    thanks

  15. Shadi Says:

    Dear Friends

    Would anybody send me an invitation,
    shady84_5@yahoo.com

    Thx

  16. freek Says:

    Somone would invite me please?
    my E-mail is freek.sonny@hotmail.com

    Thanks<3

  17. Celine Says:

    Can someone please invite me? my e-mail is celine.valou@yahoo.com

  18. Celine Says:

    can someone invite me please? my e-mail is celine.valou@yahoo.com

  19. Rodi Ali Says:

    Hi every one
    would anyone invite me plzz ??
    my email is rodi.ali1@hotmail.com
    and my facebook is : http://www.facebook.com/rodi.ali1
    thx

  20. Angel Says:

    Can somebody do me the favor of inviting me to this great Russian site. I hardly use my Facebook and think its a complete sham, whit the facial recognition technology it has me paranoid of bog brother.

    Well please guys drop an invite zacatecano@ymail.com have a good day .

  21. rahul singh Says:

    hi everyone
    i want to be on vk will anybody send me invitation on that
    my email is rahulsinghymca@yahoo.com

  22. joep Says:

    if anyone can give me an invite i’ll be greatfull

  23. Ohvi Gahar Says:

    I would like to learn to use V Kontakte. Would someone be kind enough to invite me? Thanks. Ohvi Gahar.

  24. maoz Says:

    if anyone can please send me invitation to maoz115@hotmail.com
    its very important for me.
    thanks.

  25. eimoo Says:

    Somone would invite me please?

  26. Igor Says:

    Who needs invites, email me. amelin63 (at) ya (dot) r u

  27. Igor Says:

    inviting over. Please do not write)

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