Yandex – an alternative to Google in Russia. Its same as Google, it’s a search engine, it’s a maps, mail, it’s context advertising, it’s blogs and blog search, news search, money (like Google Checkout, or Paypal), moikrug (= LinkedIn), etc, etc. Except Android, maybe. It even have an Yandex flavored version of Chrome, and Google Chrome suggests to use Yandex as default search in Russia (!!! can you belive???). See more at crunchbase
Yandex have about 60% of market in Russia, as you see Google isn’t so popular there. Why? Dont know. Its something different about the Russian, other mentality maybe?
Google is working hard. Maybe some Google products sucks in Russia, but not so much. Its Google Maps, for example, that have maps only for a a few major cities, Yandex Maps have good and more detailed maps for most cities in Russia. But it’s not the rule. Gmail, in other hand, much better than Yandex Mail.
As about search – russian language is complicated, but it’s must be not a problem for Google. They have offices in Russia, and also have a lot of Russian-speaking developers in other offices (as i heard that Ireland office has a lot of guys from Russia). They can hire smartest people, and they do, but no luck.
I know some numbers, and can say that there is no big difference in quality of search results. Maybe there is an other thing: people who want to see results in russian – they strongly prefer Yandex, because Google’s SERP is a mess of english and russian sites. Who wants to see results in english – prefer Google, but it’s not a lot of people. But even more, Yandex is trying to make a deal with this – it’s just released an improvement for search engine, and now it can understand what sites language is better for current search query and for current user. Its not so easy, btw.
Well, as you see, it’s doing very good, I really like this company, and… we’ll see.
Disclaimer: I had worked in Yandex some time ago as a product manager, btw i’m trying to be objective.