January 17, 2012 / 3:33 PM / 6 years ago

Mail.ru launches Russia's answer to Twitter

3 Min Read

LONDON (Reuters) - Russian internet company Mail.ru has launched its answer to U.S. microblogging site Twitter, seeking to expand its business into social instant messaging and emulate the success of China's Weibo.

London-listed Mail.ru said the new 'Futubra' service was part of its strategy to move into microblogging, hoping to capitalize on the fast-growing social media subsector.

The launch of Futubra, a Russian-language site which allows users to send short messages, videos and photos to its other users, attracted 17,000 users within the first 24 hours of its launch, Russian state news agency Ria Novosti reported.

"We are excited by the opportunity facing Futubra as microblogging is a fast growing segment which fits well into the Mail.Ru Group vision of the growth in internet communications," said Mail.Ru Group Chief Executive Dmitry Grishin in a statement.

Mail.ru raised around $1 billion in a blockbuster initial public offering (IPO) in London in November 2010, the second biggest Russian IPO since the financial crisis behind fellow internet group Yandex.

Social media startups have been popular with investors as the number of internet users hungry for quick information has continued to grow while Russia became Europe's second largest internet market in terms of user numbers last year.

Mail.ru hopes to emulate the success of China's Weibo and Twitter.

Twitter said in September it had more than 100 million active users from 200 million registered accounts just five years after its launch.

In China the use of microblogging quadrupled in 2011, while the total number of Weibo users rose 296 percent over the year to 249.9 million, half of the country's total internet population, according to data from the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).

Mail.ru owns two Russian social networks, My World@Mail.Ru and Odnoklassniki.ru, and owns a significant share of the social network VKontakte - the country's largest social media platform and domestic answer to Facebook.

Mail.ru shares were trading at 26.65 at 7:49 a.m. ET on Tuesday, about level with their listing price.

Reporting by Philip Baillie; Editing by John Bowker and Jon Loades-carter in Moscow

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