24 December 2012, 18:32

A fateful day for the Mail.Ru Group

A fateful day for the Mail.Ru Group
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The world certainly hasn't ended last Friday - but it was a fateful day for the Mail.Ru Group - one of the biggest players on the Russian internet arena.

The world certainly hasn't ended last Friday - but it was a fateful day for the Mail.Ru Group - one of the biggest players on the Russian internet arena. The company has stakes in several major social networks - Facebook, VK, Odnoklassniki, but, of course, that is not enough - Russian online market is rapidly developing and wasting time, resting on one's laurels is equivalent to losing money. So the company has kicked off this year with a major announcement - the Russian alternative to Twitter had arrived! Or so it hoped.

Futubra was presented d January 16th, which was, I guess, kind of well timed – albeit it didn’t help much.

So what’s that all about? Mail.Ru Group first announced the launch of Futubra microblogging service last December. It will enable users to post messages of up to 200 symbols in length, unlike Twitter's 140. Moreover, it supports built-in image and video functionality - in other words, users do not need to use third-party services and websites to add pictures or videos to their posts. Such multimedia posts will not link somewhere, but instead have the media embedded into the timeline. As some blogs already dubbed it, this is basically a microblog version of Tumblr. The "Retweet" is removed -not really. Instead, it's called a "Quotation" - after all, that's what a retweet is. So there's that. Then there's the "like" - instead of YouTube and Facebook "Thumbs Up", they went with 'hearts' that the Russian VK network uses. You can also reply to a post - each post in one's timeline has a status bar - among other indicators and buttons, such as the 'quote' button and the number of like, there's a 'replies' button - clicking it expands the discussion made of these replies. So this is kind of like VK and Facebook walls, no chaos such as mishmash of Twitter replies and mentions. An interesting note that didn't really get explained - a reply can be of up to 500 symbols.

Well… sometimes David beats the Goliath… but more often than not, Goliath wins. Futubra, however ambitious it was, failed to attract a steady following. Thus, a few days ago, the company has posted a message entitled “fararell” in the official timeline. Apparently, despite the development team’s constant efforts to make this project better, they could not sustain steady growth – thus, in the next few days, Futubra will become a thing of the past – for better or worse.

Another piece of news of apocalyptic proportions: a YouTube video has reached one billion views. That could mean that one in seven people living on this planet has seen it – but of course, it’s not true. Unfortunately, there’s no way of telling whether it’s a lot of people watching the clip a few times or less people, watching it a lot of times – the truth lies probably somewhere in between. I myself has seen it, I don’t know, at least half a dozen times – and frankly, I don’t know why – it’s just… magnetic, I guess. In any case, whether it makes people watch it over and over again or whether simply more people have seen it than anything else on YouTube, it’s broken the all-time popularity record and reached a milestone no video has reached before – just in time for the Mayan apocalypse, December 21st . And, of course, by now you probably know the clip I’m talking about – Oppan Gangam Style, by Korean artist PSY. Here’s a little history: it’s been uploaded to YouTube July 15th, 2012. With 500,000 views in the first day of release, its fame was localized to South Korea. But in a couple of weeks it got to the attention of several video-bloggers and internet personalities across the border – that’s when the clip really started taking off. While in September the video had 100 million views, in just two months more the number has skyrocketed to 500 million – at the time, this made the quirky music video number two most popular clip in the history of YouTube. Number one at the time was… ‘Baby’ by Justin Beiber… I’ll just not comment that in any way, if you don’t mind. Gangnam Style could only beat the teen pop star’s hit November 25th, simultaneously reaching another milestone – 800 million views. The record-breaking one billion was inevitable. A special website was launched, anticipating the event. It’s description was quite straightforward: “A live countdown to 1 billion views for PSY's song, Gangnam Style”. I won’t give you the exact address now, though, as the person behind it was quite quick witted, with an entrepreneurial mindset. The domain has now been sold to some sort of porn company, linking to more porn-sites and, no doubt, generating quite a sum in advertisement revenue. Here are some other notable achievements of the K-pop superhit, that may have contributed to it going down in history as the first YouTube clip with a billion views. In September, the music video has found its way into the Guinness World Records as the video with most “likes”. This counter is I guess a more appropriate measure of both viewers and appreciation – there’s only one like per viewer – granted, the overwhelming majority of unique users are either not registered, thus, cannot cast their vote, or simply choose not to. Anyway, in September “Gangam Style” reached the mark of 2 million ‘likes’. Now that it’s at the height of its fame it has over six million 200 thousand ‘likes’ – opposed to a little under half a million dislikes. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at its rival – Justin Beiber’s Baby. The video has been online for over two years now – and that tells you something about its viewership dynamics. Even more interesting – it’s like/dislike ratio. With just a little short of one and a half million likes, there’s over three million two hundred thousand dislikes – if we extrapolate this ratio to overall viewership, it could be said that majority of people who made ‘Baby’ the most viewed clip on YouTube saw it not for support. Anyway, back to Gangam Style – despite it being originally an internet viral video, it has since transcended what it was to become an international pop culture phenomenon – countless parodies flooded both YouTube itself and actual video channels; numerous celebrities of various caliber, including singer Madonna, British Prime Minister David Cameron, U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon have publicly tried out the silly “Gangnam Style” dance moves. And I have to say, in Russia he’s also a household name when it comes to uninhibited fun – Halloween and other costume parties – just any costumes parties this year, really, generally featured at least one playback of the catchy tune with dozens of people doing the “Gangam Style” dance – yours truly included. I don’t know what it is about the video and the song that makes it so popular- you know, I would bet you that some psychologists and sociologists will make a study dissecting the secret behind this phenomenon. And if they won’t, I’m sure marketing experts will – one billion views on YouTube means that the video has been voluntarily viewed one billion times – can you imagine this sort of exposure, utilized for commercial gains? Hey, how about this little excerpt from the Wikipia article on Gangnam Style? “As the song's popularity continued to rise, it caused the share price of the song's music label YG Entertainment – [the label which released the song] - to gain as much as 50% on the Korea Exchange. DI Corporation, whose executive Chairman Park Won-Ho is PSY's father, saw its share price increase by 568.8% within a few months of the song's release despite making a year-over-year loss.” How about that? Your son gets a hit song and shares of your not-so-well-to-do business skyrocket? Now that’s viral marketing – who would have thought this sort of impact was possible? Ban Ki-Moon, addressing the unifying power of the song and the dance, called it Ban Ki-Moon, called it a "force for world peace". The most funny thing about this is that most people have no idea what the song is about – or don’t care if they do know. The song and video mocks the overly trendy, hip and lavish style of posers living in the Gangnam District of South Korea’s capital or pretending to be the “high class” they’re not. Do you find this interesting or essential for your appreciation of the song? I don’t. Perhaps PSY wanted to make a statement – but seeing as how the majority of his current audience don’t speak Korean, whatever statement he is making now is different from the one originally planned. What will come next? It’s anyone’s guess, really – no one could imagine the Gangnam Style phenomena in the first place. But one thing is certain – 2012 was the year of Gangnam for YouTube – the world’s largest video host has acknowledged it by their recently released “Rewind YouTube Style 2012”, featuring PSY playing on his catchphrase and, for some reason, “Call Me Maybe” – maybe because of its YouTube popularity and the general feel-good vibe. The clip references other notable YouTubers, their viral clips of 2012 and other events which happened throughout the year, not necessarily constrained to the YouTube world. Being a creative twist on the annual "Year in Review" video, it provides links to YouTube clips of the year – so if you don’t mind wasting a few minutes (or hours) of your time, check it out.

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