Yandex's CEO on Why Google+ Won't Work

By Sarah Lacy , written on March 27, 2012

From The News Desk

We're in Moscow this week reporting, and for three days, my husband and I have been trying to get over to see Lenin. We're staying pretty near Red Square, but we've somehow always managed to show up at the exact times his tomb is closed. Did you know Lenin is closed on Sundays?

I don't know why I'm so captivated by it. There's just something voyeuristically gruesome about an entire lab existing to keep a deceased national leader's body so hopped up on chemicals that people can see it anytime they want. (Except Sundays.)

Somewhere between trying to see Lenin and meeting with various Russian tech entrepreneurs, I've started to feel incredibly sick. I've been in bed for about twelve hours and feel a bit like (I imagine) Lenin looks. So bear with me while I recover -- my Russia posts may take another day or so to see the light of day.

One of the most exciting interviews I've done is with Arkady Volozh, the co-founder and CEO of Yandex, Russia's largest Web company and one of the largest search engines in the world. Volozh rearranged his schedule to meet with us and there's a much longer post I have coming about that meeting.

But while Pando's equally beloved (and pale) leader nurses herself back to life, here's one nugget I found particularly interesting: Volozh's thoughts on why he'd never do a social property, and why Google+ is likely destined to fail.

"Our mission is to be an information company. We answer questions for people. We try not to diverge from that. We are not doing these experiments in social media. Social networks are not about technology. It's about which site gets the first critical mass of users. You can't predict what social network will win anymore than you can predict where the next raindrops will fall."
He noted that Google's moves had more to do with the personal relationships between Facebook and Google than what Google's strengths are.

Instead, Volozh is one of the only global search engines that's done a deal with Twitter to get its full firehose of Tweets. Put another way, he's not trying to be the site that facilitates human relationships. He wants to be the site that organizes that information, the same way Yandex organizes other types of information.

I don't totally agree that technology doesn't play a role here. After all, downtime cost Friendster the market as did, in part at least, MySpace's garishness. But Volozh gets one thing Larry Page doesn't: Social just isn't in a pure-search company's DNA.