Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki, two Russian social networking sites, are soon going to be accepting Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash as payment from advertisers. The companies also intend to offer employees the chance to accept their salaries in cryptocurrency, according to Bitcoin Market Insider.
Saint Petersburg-based Vkontakte, launched in September 2006, had more than 460 million user accounts by December 2017. According to California-based internet analytics company Alexa Internet, Vkontakte is the most visited website in Russia, the second-most in Belarus, the third-most in Kazakhstan, and is also popular in Estonia, Kyrgyzstan, and Moldova. Founder Pavel Durov, who was CEO of the company until his dismissal in 2014, is also the founder of Telegram.
Moscow-based Odloklassniki (“classmates”) has around 200 million users, according to Alexa Internet, and in addition to Russia is particularly popular in Uzbekistan and Georgia.
In May 2017, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko banned both sites from the country as part of sanctions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Vkontakte had 15 million users in the country at the time; the move was not a popular one.
Both companies are owned and operated by Mail.Ru Group, the largest internet group in Russia, and it is through this company that cryptocurrency payments will be enabled. Mail.Ru reaches about 85 percent of internet users in Russia and controls Qiwi, a payment service provider with 17.2 million wallets, according to Bitcoin.com.
The group said in a press release: “Mail.ru Group expands the use of two popular cryptocurrencies: BTC and BCH. The company introduces a convenient settlement method for those who already conduct business in cryptocurrency.”
The cryptocurrency payments will be processed through Bitpay, an American Bitcoin payment provider that offers a Visa-enabled prepaid Bitcoin payment card. It has partnerships with Amazon and Aliant, and is accepted in the eurozone through its partnership with Wave Crest Holdings.
Russia to regulate cryptocurrency trading, and has been planning to launch a as a way of bypassing the sanctions it attracted by its invasion of Crimea.