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Co-Founder Of Russian Internet Search Giant Yandex Falls Tragically Ill


Ilya Segalovich was said to be continuing his daily duties as executive director and chief technical officer of Yandex when he fell catastrophically ill.
A co-founder of one of Russia's most conspicuous Internet successes is said to be brain dead in a coma after being stricken suddenly while undergoing care for what the company described as "a treatable form of cancer."

Ilya Segalovich, 48, is chief technical officer of Yandex, whose search engine accounts for nearly 62 percent of Russian search-market traffic and, based on total traffic, ranks fourth worldwide above notables that include Microsoft, according to the company and data from comScore_qSearch.

Its YNDX shares are traded on the NASDAQ Stock Exchange in the United States. The share price was up by about 2 percent in early trading the morning of the news, according to the NASDAQ tracker.

Segalovich was said to have been maintaining his daily workload at Yandex, where he has served as chief technical officer (CTO) and executive director since 2000.

He reportedly fell ill on July 24.

Segalovich and fellow Yandex founder Arkady Volozh were schoolmates before joining forces in the 1990s to create Russian-language-search software, leading to the creation of Yandex in 1997.

PROFILE of Yandex

The news of his coma on July 25 was preceded by reports earlier in the day, including from Yandex and even from Segalovich's own family (according to RFE/RL's Russian Service), suggesting that the tech whiz had died.

Long after the corrections suggested Segalovich was still alive -- albeit on life support and showing no brain activity -- a Yandex Company press release titled "Yandex Announces Death of Co-Founder and CTO Ilya Segalovich" remained on the site.

It said he'd "been responding well to cancer treatment before unexpectedly succumbing to complications early this morning (July 25)." It quoted Volozh as paying tribute to his partner and calling it "a terrible loss for me personally and for all of us at Yandex." He called Segalovich "a lifelong friend" with "an encyclopedic knowledge of technology" and the "highest ethical standards." He also cited the philanthropic activities of Segalovich, who co-founded an art rehabilitation center for special-needs children and orphans in the Moscow area called Maria's Children, named after Segalovich's wife.

Yandex representative Tatyana Komarova responded to an RFE/RL query regarding Segalovich's condition by saying:

"Ilya's family told us last night that he had passed away. This morning we found out that he was on life support with no signs of brain activity. We are expecting further information."

News reports were amended within a few hours of the reports of his death to say he was in the coma, though a quick Google search suggested it was taking far longer for some pockets of the Internet to catch up:

Yandex has long stressed that the growth in Internet searches in Russian has reflected the explosion in web penetration in the country, around 25 percent annually.

But they have the added bonus of providing a way for ordinary Russians to circumvent the state's increasingly dominant role in the media, where President Vladimir Putin has overseen the virtual elimination of major independent television broadcasting in the areas of news and current affairs in the past 13 years.

Yandex has branched out into online advertising and has a division in Palo Alto, California, in Silicon Valley, called Yandex Labs that seeks to "foster innovation in search and advertising technology," according to the company website.

Yandex's market capitalization was nearly $10.5 billion on July 25.

Whether true or not, Segalovich has generally been credited in Yandex lore with coining the company's name. Yandex is a pun on the word "index," with the Russian first-person pronoun "Ya" replacing its English counterpart, "I."

In addition to Russia, it offers search products in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and Ukraine, and promises "more to come" on its official homepage.

Echoing the industry trend, Yandex has sought to shed its geeky image, an effort which included moving into splashy, artsy headquarters in 2012 that it had commissioned in St. Petersburg.

-- Andy Heil

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