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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

In praise of VK

VK is Russian Facebook. But it is really so much more.

VKontakte (VK), which is Russian for "InContact," apparently," is described via Wikipedia's opening two paragraphs as such:
VK is a Russian-based online social media and social networking service. It is available in several languages but it is especially popular among Russian-speaking users, as well as the alt-right in Europe and the United States. VK allows users to message each other publicly or privately, to create groups, public pages and events, share and tag images, audio and video, and to play browser-based games. It is based in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

As of January 2017, VK had at least 410 million accounts. VK is ranked 15 (as of September 2017) in Alexa's global Top 500 sites. It is the most popular website in Russia. According to SimilarWeb, VK is the 6th most popular website in the world. As of October 2016, VK also ranked as the most popular social networking website in Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan in addition to Russia. [Wikipedia]
(Obviously the alt-right thing is troubling but, as is the nature of closed-loop networking systems, it's something I was wholly unaware of before checking Wiki and something I don't feel like should or would really sway my opinions––which I will share henceforth––on the design, functionality and generally great & freshing features it has to offer.)

VK is the anti-Facebook. It's what I imagine Facebook would be if Facebook were good. But Facebook is designed to suck the life out of its users whilst making the most money imaginable. The first thing you'll notice about my public VK page (www.vk.com/riteaid) for Jack Smith is that there are A) no ads, and B) you can click around all of my posts and content without being bombarded by pop-ups or other devices summoning you to sign-up and make a VK account for yourself.

Compare this image (^) to the image at the top of the post. They are extremely similar. VK is not pleading you to join the party. It doesn't seem like they think of their users as tiny numbers they need to acquire as it slogs toward an unreachable capitalist endgame. Full disclosure: I have no idea how the site makes money and I don't necessarily care. The site is smooth and fast on top of being uncluttered and seemingly unprofitable. It's quite the mystery really. If I had to guess, they make some cash off of the games they offer, of which I haven't tried and don't anticipate trying in the future. Your boy ain't no gamer, folks.

But what really sets this site apart from other networking platforms is its minimalist functionality, especially in two areas: the settings department (Everything is laid out simply. Do you want this to be public or private? Do you want notifications on or off? Etc. Etc.), and its seamless, chronological take on how posting and viewing posts works, AKA 'the timeline' or 'the wall' (Imagine a website where you can see what the people you follow posted in the order it was all posted, without sponsored posts and "people you may know" popping between on top of it.) … It's all so amazingly refreshing. And I have no one to interact with. Did I mention you can upload an infinite amount of music and arrange them in playlists?

C'est La Vie. I digress. Anyway, I truly imagine a future where this site or, more likely, a site like this is the primary online place for humans. Almost like a public utility for both the individualistic bent and those in search of something more communal.