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Vkontakte, Facebook Competitor In Russia, Dominates

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Facebook may be the world's undisputed social network heavyweight, but in Russia it's getting crushed.

Why? A social media website called Vkontakte, Russian for "in touch." The site is virtually identical to Facebook in every way except one: virtually no regard for copyright laws.

As Ad Age reports, Vkontakte allows all kinds of pirated media to flourish and be shared for free by its 40 million Russian users. New movies? Check. Music? Got that, too.

And while Facebook's global usage continues to tick up and up, Business Insider notes Vkontakte's European dominance could be hard to dethrone.

In Facebook's latest SEC filings, the website shows steady growth in nearly every geographic region except the U.S./Canada and Europe. In the U.S. this can likely be attributed to saturation of the market -- there just aren't that many people in North America who could still sign up.

In Europe, though, gains have been harder to come by.

As of May 2012, Vkontakte had over 119 million users across the former Soviet sphere of influence, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Of those, at least 34 million are Russian. Facebook's Russian population, meanwhile, is just barely a quarter of that size, reports CBS, while NBC believes it's even smaller.

So what's Zuckerberg to do? For starters, meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev couldn't hurt.

And given that much of Russia has yet to regularly use the Internet (much less sign up for social networking websites), there are plenty of people for Facebook to capture in the future. For the time being, though, or at least until copyright law enforcement catches up, Facebook may be an unlikely underdog.

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