VKontake Added Back To The App Store

The apps VKontake and Mail.ru, as well as others made by the Russian technology group VK, have been reinstated to the App Store.

The apps had been removed from the app store in relation to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with no information provided as to when users could expect them to return. Now they are back on the app store, but no information has been provided on why.

VKontake and Mail.ru are owned by VK, a technology company group based in Russia. They had been affected by the UK sanctions imposed on Russian-based businesses and as such were taken off the app store.

As reported by Wired, there were concerns that the Kremlin had influenced the VKontake, centred around free speech, and infiltrated positions within the group.

VKontake and Mail.ru were just a couple of the many Russian-affiliated platforms, businesses, and services that were hit by sanctions by the UK government as well as globally.

The sanctions are in response to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, which has led to suffering and mass fleeing of Ukrainian nationals over the past six months.

VKontakte (often abbreviated as VK) is a popular social networking platform in Russia and other Russian-speaking countries. It was launched in 2006 by Pavel Durov and his brother Nikolai Durov, and it quickly gained traction, becoming one of the largest social media platforms in the region. As of my last knowledge update in September 2021,

Here’s an overview of VKontakte:

  1. User Base: VKontakte has a substantial user base, primarily in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. It’s one of the most visited websites in these countries and is often referred to as the “Russian Facebook.”
  2. Features: VKontakte offers a range of features that are similar to other social media platforms, including:
    • Profiles: Users can create personal profiles with profile pictures, cover photos, and information about themselves.
    • News Feed: Users can see updates from their friends and pages they follow in a news feed format.
    • Friends: Similar to Facebook, users can connect with others by sending and accepting friend requests.
    • Groups and Pages: Users can create and join groups or pages centered around various interests, such as hobbies, music, movies, and more.
    • Messaging: VKontakte has a messaging system that allows users to send private messages to their friends.
  3. Music and Media: One of VKontakte’s standout features is its integration of music and media. Users can listen to and share music tracks, create playlists, and follow artists. However, the platform has faced criticism for enabling the unauthorized sharing of copyrighted music.
  4. Video Content: VKontakte also supports video content sharing, including user-uploaded videos and video streaming.
  5. Privacy and Security: Like other social networks, VKontakte allows users to adjust their privacy settings, control who can see their posts, and manage friend lists.
  6. Mobile App: VKontakte has a mobile app available for both Android and iOS devices, making it convenient for users to access the platform on the go.
  7. Ownership and Controversies: Pavel Durov, one of the co-founders, left VKontakte in 2014 amidst conflicts with the Russian government over user privacy and censorship. He later founded Telegram, a popular messaging app. Following his departure, VKontakte underwent ownership changes and faced various controversies related to censorship and government influence.
  8. Evolution: Over the years, VKontakte has evolved to incorporate new features and improvements, attempting to stay relevant in the rapidly changing social media landscape.

VKontake and VK Group Apps Added Back to App Store

VKontake and Mail.ru were added back to the app store on 18/10/2022, months after their initial removal from the platform.

The app store regularly checks the licenses of apps placing themselves on the store, checking for illegitimate/spammy practices or features.

Apple’s guidelines can be quite stringent. The decision to remove Russian-owned apps from the store came in response to the Ukrainian invasion after pressure from multiple governments to add to the financial sanctions imposed by the world governments on the nation.

It is not clear at this time why these bans to the apps have been lifted, or who was responsible for the decision.

Comparisons with Other Social Networks:

VKontakte (VK) differentiates itself from other social networks in several ways, particularly when compared to global platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others. Here’s how VKontakte stands out:

  1. Regional Dominance: VKontakte’s primary user base is concentrated in Russian-speaking countries like Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. It has a strong regional influence and is often considered the social network of choice in these areas.
  2. Language and Culture: VKontakte is designed to cater to the language and cultural preferences of Russian-speaking users. The platform supports Cyrillic text and offers features that resonate with the cultural norms of the region.
  3. Music Integration: VKontakte’s music sharing and streaming features are a significant differentiator. Users can discover, share, and listen to music on the platform, making it a hub for music enthusiasts. This integration has contributed to VKontakte’s popularity, especially among younger audiences.
  4. Video Content: VKontakte allows users to share and view videos, similar to other platforms like YouTube. However, the platform’s focus on both music and video sets it apart from some other social networks.
  5. Community and Interest Groups: VKontakte places a strong emphasis on communities and interest-based groups. Users can join or create groups related to various topics, hobbies, and interests. This communal aspect fosters engagement and interactions around shared passions.
  6. User-Centric Features: VKontakte offers a range of customizable features for user profiles, including personalized themes, music playlists, and more. This level of personalization can create a unique user experience.
  7. Less Globalization: Due to its regional focus, VKontakte might feel less globalized compared to platforms like Facebook and Twitter. This can be advantageous for users seeking content and connections that align more closely with their regional preferences.
  8. Messaging Emphasis: VKontakte’s messaging system is an integral part of the platform, with features like audio messages and chatbots. This puts a strong focus on direct communication between users.
  9. Privacy Features: VKontakte allows users to customize their privacy settings extensively. This flexibility gives users control over who can view their content, which can be appealing for those who prioritize privacy.
  10. Local Advertising and Business Opportunities: For businesses targeting Russian-speaking markets, VKontakte offers advertising options to reach a specific audience. It also has business-oriented features for companies to establish a presence and engage with users.
  11. News Feed Algorithm: VKontakte’s news feed algorithm might prioritize content differently from other social networks, impacting the content users see and engage with.
  12. Visual and Design Elements: VKontakte’s user interface and design might have distinct visual elements that set it apart from other platforms, aligning with its regional user preferences.

Overall, VKontakte’s unique blend of music integration, regional dominance, interest-based groups, and tailored features make it distinct from other global social networks. However, its regional focus can also limit its recognition and usage outside Russian-speaking countries.

VKontake and Mail.ru can now be accessed from the UK app store on iOS. It is not clear whether they will be removed from the app store again in future.

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