Something strange is happening in Russia. For several years, social networking didn’t really pick up, although many have tried, and about one year ago new Russian Facebook clone appeared, and became #3 now.
The site itself doesn’t look special - design is almost except copy of digg at time vkontakte.ru was created:
All features are standard: friends, photos, videos, messages, notes (blog), groups, and events. There is support for Russian declinations, including gender-specific inflection with support for names, which is quite difficult to implement, for example: Друзья Наталии Искорки (Friends of Nataly Iskorka).
Former soviet republics are recognized, so perhaps website may become popular among Russian-speaking audience in Baltics or Central Asia, and 5.9% of its users already come from Ukraine.
Website owner is Pavel Durov, with user’s id of 1. I’m wondering who’s got id of zero.
To view pages of other users, you have to fill your profile to at least 30%. Perhaps that’s a contributing factor to site’s growth, in addition to quite good picture filtering - you won’t find Olsen Twins photos in profiles here, at least not at first sight. Updating profile photo may be not super-easy for users who got high-megapixel camera or don’t know the difference between BMP and JPG - upload is limited to 5 MB.
I’ve heard rumors that the site grew so quickly because creators took their hands on database of students, which is not impossible given current situation with intellectual property protection in Russia.