Zuckerberg aims to boost Russian presence

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Mark Zuckerberg yesterday met with Russian prime minister Dmitri Medvedev, in an attempt to raise the profile of Facebook in the country.

Russia is one of the few countries where Facebook hasn't made an overwhelming impact, with only 10 million users compared to the 35 million boasted by Russian-language competitor VKontakte.

Meanwhile, Medvedev is hoping to boost Russia's tech industry with a homegrown version of Silicon Valley.

"Medvedev and Zuckerberg have discussed Facebook's possible presence in Russia not only as a social network, but also as a company that deals with the most advanced products," his press secretary, Natalya Timakova, told RT. "They have also discussed Skolkovo as a place where startups could be of mutual interest."

But while some reports have suggested that Facebook is planning a major research and development center in Russia, the company appears instead to be keen to lure IT talent to the west.

Winners at the Facebook Developer World Hack 2012, now taking place in Moscow, will be invited to visit Facebook in California.

And, according to the Voice of Russia radio station, the company has been recruiting heavily for talent to ship back home.

"The last one to attempt such a mass 'extraction' of Russian programmers was Microsoft during the 1998 Russian crisis... but even then weren't as public," IBS Group president Anatoly Karachinskiy told the station.

"I'm shocked at what's going on with Facebook. Not only they're doing it publicly and they're not ashamed... the meeting with the Prime Minister gives the process significance and legitimacy."

But Zuckerberg's also found time for less controversial activities during his visit, including visiting Red Square and a local MacDonalds, as well as appearing on a late-night comedy show.