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一家你也许未曾听说的IT巨头

更新时间:2018-10-2 10:28:19 来源:千亿千亿国际娱乐官网 作者:佚名

The IT behemoth that you might have never heard of
一家你也许未曾听说的IT巨头

Earlier this year, I climbed into a self-driving car for the first time. I was one of hundreds who had waited patiently for their turn to take a spin. Some even got sunburnt while waiting, but felt the pain was worth it. In the end each of us got a pin saying “The first self-driving car’s passenger”.

今年早些时候,我第一次坐上了自动驾驶汽车。几百人耐心等待他们的乘坐机会,我就是其中之一。有些人甚至在等待时晒伤了,但他们还是觉得值得。最后,我们每个人都得到了一个徽章,上面写着“第一辆自动驾驶汽车的乘客”。

The stunt took place during a conference held by one of the biggest internet companies in the world. It now works in such fields as artificial intelligence, self-driving cars, personal assistants, online-translating and dictionaries, online marketplaces and – most recently – smart speakers. But it wasn't Google. And it wasn’t even in Silicon Valley.

世界最大的互联网公司之一举办的会议上,进行了上述的特技展示。该公司目前致力于人工智能(artificial intelligence)、自动驾驶汽车、个人助理、在线翻译和词典、在线交易平台,以及最近研发的智能音箱等领域。但它不是谷歌(Google),甚至不在硅谷。

There are several web search engines in the world. The biggest are Google, Microsoft’s Bing, China's Baidu and the early pioneer Yahoo. Google is the most dominant, having become much more than simply the go-to search engine. But there’s another contender to add to this list that few people have heard of outside the country where it operates. That country is Russia. The search engine? Yandex.

世界上有几个网络搜索引擎。最大的是谷歌、微软的必应、中国的百度和之前的业界先驱雅虎。谷歌最具优势,已经不仅是简单的搜索引擎。但这个榜单要加上另一个竞争者,在它运营的国家以外,很少有人听说过。那个国家是俄罗斯。而这个搜索引擎呢?叫作Yandex。

Much like its Silicon Valley counterpart, the ‘Russian Google’ is more than just a search engine. It began life in the late 1990s as the Yandex.ru homepage. It has since developed into a sprawling IT giant.

与其在硅谷的竞争对手类似,“俄罗斯谷歌”不仅仅是一个搜索引擎。它诞生于上世纪90年代末,起初是Yandex.ru网站的主页。此后,它已经发展成为一家不断扩张的IT巨头。

“In the West they like to call us Google of Russia, but we have long been far more than that: we are Uber of Russia and Spotify of Russia and many more other things of Russia," the founder and the head of Yandex Arkadiy Volozh said in May 2017.

“在西方,他们喜欢称我们为俄罗斯的谷歌,但我们远远不止如此:我们是俄罗斯的优步(Uber),俄罗斯的声破天(Spotify,全球最大的串流音乐服务商),以及俄罗斯的许多其他东西,”Yandex的创始人和负责人沃洛兹(Yandex Arkadiy Volozh)在2017年5月表示。

A USB flash drive containing 4Gb of memory costs just a few dollars in 2018. When Yandex was founded, a hard drive with that much memory could cost you thousands of dollars. That’s about how much memory Volozh had to purchase to set up the Yandex search engine in 1997.

2018年,一个4Gb内存的U盘只需几美元。Yandex成立时,一个同样内存的硬盘驱动器可能要花费数千美元。1997年,沃洛兹就购买了这么多内存来建立Yandex搜索引擎。

At first it was just a project that the telecommunications company Comptek Volozh had founded almost a decade earlier. How then did it evolve into an IT giant that raised $1.3bn (£1bn) in at its IPO in 2011 – not far off Google’s own IPO of $1.7bn (£1.31bn)?

起初,这只是电信公司Comptek Volozh在近10年前创立的一个项目。后来它是如何演变成一家在2011年IPO(首次公开募股)时募集了13亿美元的IT巨头的?这个数字距离谷歌IPO时募集的17亿美元并不遥远。

Yandex may be a mostly Russian enterprise, but it is starting to attract big players who have made their name outside Russia. There are former Google and Microsoft employees managing research departments. The company clearly considers Google to be one of its main rivals. But that may only be true when it comes to tech and ideas. Olga Maslikhova, a venture investor in IT, says Yandex has chosen not to try and rival Google on the world stage – it has decided to concentrate its resources on Russia.

Yandex可能主要是一家俄罗斯企业,但它正开始吸引那些在俄罗斯以外成名的大公司。其研究部门正由前谷歌和微软员工进行管理。该公司显然认为谷歌是其主要竞争对手之一。但可能只有在涉及到技术和创意时才是如此。IT业的风险投资人马斯里克霍瓦(Olga Maslikhova)表示,Yandex不会在世界舞台上与谷歌竞争,它决定将资源集中在俄罗斯。

“Yandex is a public company and it needs to boost its valuation. The choice is to scale to other regions or to develop new product lines in one exact region,” says Maslikhova. “Bearing in mind the Russian economic situation, it is complicated to expand internationally. So Yandex chooses the strategy of horizontal scaling to where they already operate.”

“Yandex是一家上市公司,需要提高其估值。它的选择是扩张到其它地区,或者在一个确切的地区开发新的产品线," 马斯里克霍瓦说。"考虑到俄罗斯的经济形势,千亿国际娱乐扩张是复杂的。因此,Yandex选择了横向扩展的策略,即在他们已经运营的区域进行扩展。”

The talent is not necessarily Russian, however. David Talbot, a former Google languages researcher, is now the head of the Yandex.Translate service. Talbot joined a team led by Mikhail Bilenko, who had previously developed a platform for machine learning in Microsoft and now is the head of machine intelligence and research at Yandex.

然而,公司招募的人才不一定是俄罗斯人。塔尔伯特(David Talbot),前谷歌语言研究员,现在是Yandex翻译(Yandex Translate)服务的负责人。塔尔伯特加入了比连科(Mikhail Bilenko)领导的团队。比连科此前在微软开发了一个机器学习平台,现在是Yandex的机器智能与研究负责人。

There was some controversy when Talbot joined and Yandex’s online translator started using a neuronet system soon after Google Translate did. But Talbot told the BBC the architecture was different, which meant it could better deal with the particular task of translating English into Russian.

塔尔伯特加入后,Yandex的在线翻译紧随谷歌翻译(Google Translate),不久也开始使用神经元网络系统(neuronet system),这引发一些争议。但塔尔伯特告诉英国广播公司(BBC),两者系统架构不同,这意味着Yandex可以更好地处理将英语翻译成俄语的特殊任务。

“Most people are making what they do open source,” he said. “There’s no open source for exact implementation of the Google machine translation but many toolkits are available open source which allow you to experiment with these things. People have seen the benefits of not keeping their technology completely private. If you make it open source then many people will experiment with your software and they will find bugs and improvements.”

“大多数人进行开发都会开放源代码(open source),"他说。"目前还没有谷歌机器翻译具体实现流程的开放源代码,但是有很多可用的工具包都是开源的,可以让你利用它们进行实验。人们已经看到了技术不完全保密的好处。如果你开放源代码,很多人会对你的软件进行实验,他们会发现漏洞并进行完善。”

In mid-2017, the company opened its own machine-learning library. It has also just launched its cloud service aimed at helping companies to develop its products. This may end up including its own version of speech recognition technology.

2017年年中,该公司开设了自己的机器学习库。它还刚刚推出了旨在帮助企业开发产品的云服务。这最终可能包括Yandex版本的语音识别技术。

Yandex is also at the forefront of bringing self-driving cars to real roads. For example, its self-autonomous taxi was launched as a test project in the suburbs of Kazan, capital of Russia’s Tatarstan region. This small town called Innopolis is known for its IT-cluster, and now its inhabitants can drive around hands-free. It’s just like Google’s Waymo, except it’s on the Russian steppes and not suburban Phoenix.

将自动驾驶汽车应用于现实道路,Yandex也走在前沿。例如,该公司在俄罗斯的鞑靼斯坦共和国(Tatarstan)首府喀山(Kazan)的郊区启动了自动驾驶出租车试验项目。这个叫伊诺波利斯(Innopolis)的小镇以它的IT研发产业群而闻名,现在它的居民可以解放双手驾驶汽车。这就像谷歌的Waymo(谷歌旗下研发自动驾驶汽车的公司),只不过它位于俄罗斯大草原,而不是凤凰城(Phoenix,美国亚利桑那州州府,Waymo总部所在地)的郊区。

Yandex attracts many of the brightest young minds from the best of Russia's technical high schools, but as Maslikhova noted, while they may be hubs of promising tech specialists, Russia’s universities are not particularly business-minded. Building up the next generation of 'Yandexoids' (as Yandex employees call themselves) is also one of the company's aims.

Yandex吸引了许多来自俄罗斯最好的技术院校的最聪明的年轻人,但正如马斯里克霍瓦所指出的,尽管俄罗斯的大学可能是技术专家的摇篮,但它们并没有特别的商业头脑。打造下一代“Yandex人”(‘Yandexoids’,Yandex员工的自称)也是公司的目标之一。

Yandex operates its own lyceum to teach children basic programming basics. The Yandex School of Data Analysis has been offering free courses for senior students and postgraduates since 2007, and there are also joint programmes with selected Russian universities.

Yandex开设了自己的学园,教授孩子们基本的编程基础知识。自2007年以来,Yandex数据分析学校(Yandex School of Data Analysis)一直在为高年级学生和研究生提供免费课程,此外,该校还与一些俄罗斯大学合作开设课程。

Yandex not only tries to teach young developers and analysts to deal with big data and AI, it also tries to get the rest of the population used to it as well. Yandex's Toloka platform gives everyone an opportunity to help the company teach its AI algorithms while earning some money. There are hundreds of tasks you can do on its website, each will earn you around 5c (4p) depending on your level of expertise. You only need working eyes, ears and a brain for some of the tasks – no high-school diploma is required to tell a machine what you hear on a recording (this is, after all, how you teach an algorithm to recognise human speech).

Yandex不仅试图教年轻的开发人员和分析师处理大数据(big data)和人工智能,还试图让其他人也习惯它。Yandex的Toloka平台让每个人都有机会在赚钱的同时,帮助公司教授其人工智能算法。在它的网站上,你可以完成数百项任务,每项任务都可以根据你的专业水平获得大约5美分的奖励。你只需要活动眼睛、耳朵和大脑就可以完成一些任务——不需要高中文凭就可以告诉机器你在录音中听到了什么(毕竟,这是你在教一种识别人类语言的算法)。

Yandex’s public engagement doesn't end there. This summer the company launched a mobile app for its project called Narodnaya Karta (“A public map” in English), which is essentially a Yandex.Maps editor (Yandex has a map app much like Google Maps). Narodnaya Karta is a tool in Yandex's Maps service that helps its users improve it. Everyone can suggest editing the current version of a map. Everyone can scan the world around them and upload new data so the map adapts. It is crowdsourcing cartography.

Yandex的公众参与并不仅限于此。今年夏天,该公司为一个名为“公共地图” (Narodnaya Karta)的项目推出了一款移动应用程序,其本质就是“Yandex地图”编辑器(Yandex有一个地图应用程序很像谷歌地图)。“公共地图”是“Yandex地图”服务中的一个工具,帮助用户改进这一软件。每个人都可以建议对当前版本的地图进行编辑。每个人都可以扫描周围的世界并上传新的数据,这样地图就能相应提高。它是众包(crowdsourcing)地图制作。

There may be even more ambitious projects ahead. Volozh proposed something ambitious this year at Yandex's ‘Yet Another Conference’ – one of the biggest tech conferences in Russia. It was the idea of making technologies dissolve around us.

未来可能还有更具野心的项目。今年,在Yandex的“另一个大会”(Yet Another Conference)(俄罗斯最大的科技会议之一)上,沃洛兹上提出了一个雄心勃勃的计划,理念是让技术在我们周围消融。

How? By making it very easy to use and extremely natural. Want some pizza? No need to search for a pizzeria’s phone number, call it and place an order. Just push the button on your smartphone and ask your personal smart assistant – Alisa, Yandex’s equivalent to Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa – to order it for you. Papa John’s confirmed it has collaborated with Yandex to make this possible. A new platform called Yandex.Dialogues launched in May 2018; it’s essentially a platform that allows third-party developers to add ‘skills’ – particular functions – to Alisa.

如何做到呢?就是让技术变得非常容易使用,并且极其自然被使用。想吃些披萨?不需要搜索披萨店的电话号码,再打电话下单。只需按下智能手机上的按钮,让你的个人智能助手——Alisa, Yandex相当于苹果的Siri或亚马逊的Alexa的智能助手——为你订购。披萨品牌棒约翰(Papa John's)证实它已经与Yandex合作使这项服务成为可能。一个叫做“Yandex对话”(Yandex.Dialogues)的新平台在2018年5月启动;它本质上是一个允许第三方开发人员向Alisa添加"技能",即特殊功能的平台。

While seriously developing AI and helping international research groups to carry out scientific studies, the company still has time to subvert the stereotype of the stern-faced Russian. They’ve allowed Yandex.Maps’ users to label places with emoji (which turned into mass marking of almost all districts of Moscow with ‘poo’ emoji). Or when they launched Yandex.Autopoet – an algorithm that ‘writes’ poems imitating styles of famous poets. They’ve introduced translation to emoji and added the elvish language from Lord of the Rings to the Yandex.Translator a while ago.

在认真开发人工智能并帮助千亿国际娱乐研究小组开展科学研究的同时,该公司仍有时间颠覆俄罗斯人板着面孔的刻板印象。他们允许“Yandex地图”用户用表情符号(emoji)标注地点(这就变成了莫斯科几乎所有地区都使用“便便”表情符号进行大规模标注)。另外他们还推出“Yandex自动诗人”(Yandex.Autopoet)——一种模仿著名诗人的风格“写”诗的算法。不久前他们引入了文字到表情符号的翻译,并将《指环王》(Lord of the Rings)中的精灵语言加入到“Yandex翻译”(Yandex.Translator)中。

Yandex’s AI can even write music: at Yet Another Conference in 2017 an orchestra performed an overture in the style of Alexander Scriabin written by software to celebrate the anniversary of the composer’s birth. The company also supported an online historical project shaped as social media called “1917 – Free History”. The project marked 100 years since the Russian revolution and aimed to reveal what was happening in Russian cities while the revolution took place.

Yandex的人工智能甚至可以创作音乐:在2017年的“另一个大会”上,一个管弦乐队演奏了用软件编写的斯克里亚宾(Alexander Scriabin)风格的序曲,以庆祝这位作曲家的诞辰。该公司还支持一个名为“1917——自由历史”的在线历史项目,该项目被塑造为社交媒体,纪念俄国革命100周年,旨在揭示革命发生时俄国城市发生了什么。

Yandex is clearly aiming for the top – even if that means asking climbers to take a picture every step of the way to the top of the highest point on the planet, and make 360° panoramic photos on the Everest summit for Yandex.Maps. “We definitely need to hire a Head of Crazy Projects urgently now,” Volozh said recently. He's probably only half joking.

Yandex显然瞄准了行业顶端——即使这意味着要求登山者在向着地球上的最高点迈进的路上每走一步都要拍照,并为“Yandex地图”在珠穆朗玛峰(Everest)顶拍摄360°全景照片。“我们现在迫切需要雇佣一个疯狂项目的负责人(Head of Crazy Projects)。”沃洛兹最近说。他可能只是半开玩笑。

Yandex has gone way beyond search; it now operates in the arena of machine translation, it can sell and deliver stuff to you, it can serve you food, call you a cab, be your home cinema (thanks to its online film database Kinopoisk), help you educate yourself and catch your train. It is starting to involve itself into almost every aspect of life.

Yandex已经超越了搜索领域;它现在在机器翻译领域运作,它可以卖东西并给你送货,它可以给你提供食物,为你叫出租车,成为你的家庭影院(因为它有在线电影数据库Kinopoisk),帮助你自学,提醒你赶火车。它开始融入生活的方方面面。

Many of us already have the feeling that our smartphones know us better than our loved ones. With so much involvement in the online activity of Russians, Yandex has access to huge amounts of data about different kinds of users’ behaviour. This is then ‘fed’ to the company's AI, allowing it to develop further and further.

我们中的许多人已经感觉智能手机比我们所爱的人更了解我们。Yandex如此多地参与俄罗斯人的在线活动,能够获取大量不同用户行为的数据。然后,这将“反馈”给该公司的人工智能,使其能够进一步发展。

Is Yandex going to become a monopoly? Iskander Giniyatullin, a partner at the tech venture fund Sistema VC, doesn’t think so. “Yandex merging with Uber Taxi can be seen as an outcome of these two companies’ competition. But what Yandex does is just getting into new areas that are now recognised as extremely promising worldwide,” he says.

Yandex会成为垄断者吗?科技风险投资基金Sistema VC的合伙人吉尼亚图林(Iskander Giniyatullin)不这么认为。“Yandex与优步的合并可以看作是这两家公司竞争的结果。但Yandex所做的是进入新的领域,而这些领域现在被认为在全球范围内极具前景,”他说。

Alexander Larianovsky, who spent seven years in Yandex as the head of international development, thinks the same: “We observe roughly the same story for every company anywhere else... It is a matter of either developing your business or cutting it, that’s it.”

拉里亚诺夫斯基(Alexander Larianovsky)在Yandex工作了7年,担任千亿国际娱乐发展部门负责人,他也表示认同:“我们在任何地方的每一家公司身上都能看到同样的情况……这是一个发展或削减业务的问题,就是这样。”

In the past few months, Yandex has launched its taxi service in Lithuania. Earlier this year, they rolled out the same service in Latvia and Estonia. It doesn’t look unusual that the Russian IT giant works in countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union. But it is more surprising to see the level of its activities in its historically prickly neighbour Turkey.

在过去的几个月里,Yandex在立陶宛推出了出租车服务。今年早些时候,他们在拉脱维亚和爱沙尼亚推出了同样的服务。这家俄罗斯IT巨头在曾经属于前苏联的国家开展业务,这并不奇怪。但更让人惊讶的是,它在历史上麻烦不断的邻国土耳其(Turkey)高水平地开展业务。

This is seen as quite a logical move by Larianovsky though. He worked on launching yandex.com.tr in 2011. “It all starts with the school where we were taught that the young Soviet republic helped the young Turkish republic. We see each other not as enemies but as friends, historically.”

然而,拉里亚诺夫斯基认为这是相当合理的举动。2011年,他参与创办了yandex.com.tr网站。“这一切都从学校开始,在那里我们被教导年轻的苏维埃共和国曾经帮助过年轻的土耳其共和国。从历史上看,我们把对方视为朋友,而不是敌人。”

Yandex decided to enter the Turkish market when Turkey used to be more pro-Western than now, Larianovsky says. But it didn’t mean that the Russian IT company wanted to use it as a gateway to the West, he says. “No, it’s just been a first attempt to go somewhere non-Cyrillic.”

拉里亚诺夫斯基说,在土耳其曾经比现在更亲西方的时候,Yandex就决定进入土耳其市场。但他表示,这并不意味着这家俄罗斯IT公司想把土耳其作为通往西方的门户。“不,这只是第一次尝试去一个不属于斯拉夫语系的地方。”

Volozh says his company won’t even try to compete with other search engines outside of Russia until competition laws change. But at the same time, it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop trying new things.

沃洛兹说,在竞争法则改变之前,他的公司甚至不会尝试在俄罗斯以外与其它搜索引擎竞争。但与此同时,它似乎并未停止开发新领域。

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