Sci & Tech

Russia OK in Iran

A Russian messaging app is attempting to enter the heavily overcrowded Iranian market
The OK Messages app is the second Russian-derived application to enter the Iranian market. The OK Messages app is the second Russian-derived application to enter the Iranian market.
The website version of OK.RU already has hundreds of people listed in Iran

One of Russia’s most popular social networks for the youth demographic under 30 has been officially launched in Iran, according to a report from Moscow.  

Odnoklassniki or OK as it is more informally known and mean classmates in Russian, launched its new messaging app in Iran, Iraq, China and Macao, according to Izvestia newspaper this week.

According to the paper’s report, the social network’s new Android app was launched under the OK Messages brand in Iran, the Russian paper learned from a source close to the company.

However, searching through several Android stores inside Iran, including Café Bazaar and IranApps, the app is not currently available for download in any one of the stores.

The messaging app’s parent website, OK.RU is the third most popular website in the Russian Federation with 1.4 billion total visits. It sits behind other famous social media sites like, which is a Russian version of Facebook. It is also popular in Ukraine, Germany, Belarus and Kazakhstan, SimilarWeb reported.

According to Google’s Play Store, the new version of the OK Messages app was launched officially on September 1 and runs on Android devices running 4.0.3 and above. The site notes it has had 100,000+ downloads since its launch.

Iran’s social media scene can be separated into at least two groups, the over 30s who use the Telegram messaging app and an emerging younger group that uses both Instagram and Telegram.

An estimated 20 million Telegram messenger users are currently active in Iran, according to reports from government sources, making it the clear winner.

 Tough Competition

Financial Tribune contacted the parent company’s media department and the OK Messaging App developers who did not respond to questions about its low key-key entry in the Iranian market.

Unlike its Russian parent site, the company’s new OK Messaging app is available in several languages and meant for foreign downloads only.

The app functions as a social network, allowing its users to chat, make calls, comment on and “like” their friends’ photos, watch videos, listen to the music, play games, upload and edit photos, become a member of a group and track its updates, show their location and share gifts.

But like previous Russian versions coming to Iran, this one may not make much of a presence.

Telegram Messenger originally developed by Russia’s Pavel Durov, but now based in Germany, is Iran’s most popular social network/messaging app.

The software is incredibly advanced, allowing users to do direct messaging, talk with bots, download software and media, as well as to join messaging boards and news groups.

With the company’s intended push in new markets, it looks like it has not done its homework on Iran; without offering the language in Persian script, their reach will be limited.

Limiting the app to Android exclusively will further enable it to only hit a segment of the market.

Previously, it promised to create a version of Tajik Persian speakers, but it has not made a version in that language either, according to East West News.

 Users in Iran

However, the company does have one advantage over some of its competitors, as the website and app versions are easily viewed with no block on their access.

The website version of OK.RU already has hundreds of people listed in Iran. However, looking at the mix of profiles registered, it appears that a majority of them are CIS nationals currently working here and only a few hundred Iranian nationals are using English as their primary language on their profile pages.

Will this app and site make a significant dent in Telegram’s lead? It is possible, considering the historical precedents at play in Iran.

Prior to Telegram, it was Viber, which is now relegated to the third most used messaging app behind WhatsApp after its services were heavily squeezed by government servers.

If the government decides to disconnect Telegram for any reason, the OK app could mop it up if it could support the huge Iranian clientele.

Several Iranian companies have also entered the fray in recent years, in an attempt to further cut at Telegram’s leading market presence.

Many of the apps have also chosen to focus on the Android market, but have failed to gain attention.

The government is also supporting local apps, as localizing the technology is one of the main concerns of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology that consider Iranian data held by foreign companies as unacceptable, according to local media agencies.

Sorena Sattari, vice president for science and technology, said in July indigenous messengers should be developed.