Russian tech giant Yandex removes national borders from Maps app

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The reconfiguration of Russia’s digital landscape following Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine continues to take place at the macro and micro levels. Here’s a development on the latest front: Local tech giant Yandex has quietly removed national borders from its mapping product.

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Users of the Yandex Maps application, which is popular in the CIS countries, can still see the displayed country names, but the lines depicting the exact borders between countries are no longer visible.

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We understand that this move is an attempt to circumvent the Kremlin’s political pressure related to the war in Ukraine, where the Putin regime is trying to redraw physical borders through bloody military aggression.

A Yandex spokesperson did not explicitly list this as the reason for the drastic move to remove national borders from its mapping product when asked for comment, but the company confirmed in a statement that it has removed national borders – hyping the change as part of a shift to focusing on local navigation. Which, uh, is pretty dizzying.

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“Yandex Maps is a universal service that helps people find organizations and places nearby, choose public transport and plan convenient routes. These are the primary use cases for our users,” a spokesperson told us. “In the near future, the map will become more physical-geographical at scales where it is not used for its main purpose – i.e. on the survey scale of the map. The emphasis there will shift from the borders of the country to natural objects.

“Our goal is to show the world around. Therefore, some objects will appear on it – mountains, rivers, lines of the polar circles and other data characteristic of this type of map.

The Yandex Maps app appears to address other potential political disputes, such as different place names or different English transliterations of Ukrainian place names (i.e. based on Ukrainian or Russian pronunciation), either by customizing the view based on the user’s location. ; or displaying conflicting options on the map, separated by the “/” symbol. Moreover, apparently in an attempt to avoid political disputes and be able to claim neutrality.

In recent months, the Russian tech giant has announced a more serious reconfiguration of its business to reduce political risk: Sale announcement its news aggregator and blogging platform, News and Zen, to another local tech giant, VKontakte, faced criticism from the likes of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny for allowing their platforms to be used to boost Putin’s propaganda.

How successful Yandex’s risk mitigation tactics are within and outside of Russia remains to be seen, given that much of its operations and employees are stuck under the dictates set by the Kremlin.

Earlier this monthThe European Union added to its sanctions list a second key executive of Yandex, co-founder, CEO and chief executive Arkady Volozh, which provoked another drop in the price of its shares, although the company itself was not hit by sanctions. Volozh responded by resigning, but Yandex called the EU decision “completely unfair” and “based on an inaccurate understanding of Arkady and what Yandex is doing.”

“Instead of being sanctioned, Arkady should be commended for building from the ground up one of the most independent, modern and progressive companies in Russia and one of the most innovative companies in Europe; a true pioneer in search, taxi hailing, maps and navigation, and autonomous vehicles, just to name a few of the areas where Yandex excels,” the company added in its report. statement expressing his disappointment on Monday.

Return to March The EU also sanctioned Deputy CEO and CEO Tigran Khudaverdyan, who also resigned. While Yandex’s share price has fallen over 70% since mid-February.

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