Social network Badoo is banned in Iran

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Badoo, a social network popular in emerging markets like Russia and Brazil, has been banned in Iran. As of December 2009 Badoo says it had broken the 50 million user mark globally, with 250,000 of those coming from Iran. Pictured is the text that comes up when trying to access Badoo from inside Iran.

Badoo runs a fine line between a social network and a dating or (more accurately) a flirting site, but it is not at all political. It may be this flirtatious aspect of the site which has inflamed the ire of the strict Islamic authorities – however, there has been no official reason given.

In January 2008 Badoo pulled in $30m from Russian investor Finam for a 10% stake. The money was to build the service in Russia and other emerging markets.

The site had been been working with mobile network Turkcell, which has ties to Irancell, Iran’s predominant mobile network. Because Badoo’s social system is based largely on premium SMS, it sent its payment services through Irancell. However, the current politics over the site’s ban has stalled this operation. Badoo is currently trying to come up with a plan to circumvent the ban to reach its users again.

Michael Geer, CEO and co-founder of the London-based startup, told me: “We first noticed numbers dropping quickly and then a flood of support emails coming in. Which is impressive since the feedback could only come from users that had prior contact with our customer support.” He says there has been no official statement and no reason given. “For the first time in our site’s existence, we are being completely blocked by a market’s government. I don’t know whether to be pissed off or honored!” he added.

The text above appears to have been posted by www.dci.ir which appears to be an arm of the Iranian government.

Badoo emphasises photos and flirting and avoids advertising – instead it bases its business model on a set of premium features. These mostly involve the user paying a small fee via premium SMS to gain more attention to his or her profile on the site. The more you text in, the more your profile is promoted to other users. Simple really.

As such, Badoo turns out to be pretty suited to emerging markets since it is so SMS driven – something which is largely ubiquitious in Iran, and especially when mobile Web access is almost impossible. With a huge number of the population still under 30 years old, Iran is in fact a ripe network for early-adopting young people who have grown up with mobile phones and – albeit limited – internet access. The rise of the use of Twitter there during the recent wave of political protests has been well documented.

Of course, Internet censorship in Iran is not news.

According to the The Committe Against Censorship In Iran (Google translate version, @proxyiran) software and tech companies based in Iran like like Gostar Sharif and Pars Online, the biggest Internet service provider in the country, are largely complicit with the Iranian government in the censorship of web sites hosted outside the country.

  • http://themindblogger.com rohit bhatia

    :) who had this coming?

    • http://badoo shine van
    • mansour

      i’m mansourreza from iran. do you like have chat with me?

  • jb

    “Badoo is currently trying to come up with a plan to circumvent the ban to reach its users again.”

    Good for them. Should they try to crowdsource a solution? Why aren’t the hackers focusing all their energy on bringing down these types of walls?

    There’s a slow moving (although might speed up) revolution happening within Iran (the vast majority of population not aligned with mullahs). I wish those seeking reforms luck as well.

    • http://averysmallbird.com @cda

      What does that even mean in this context, ‘crowdsource a solution?’

      • http://badoo.com Mike Geer

        I believe JB means to ask around for anyone that has a good solution to work around this ban.

        JB, I definitely agree and would love to hear any good ideas anyone has out there. As my dev team filters in from the holidays, we’ll give priority to overcoming this ban and will be updating our Iranian users throughout the process.

        Any censorship is obviously bad, and I appreciate Mike bringing more attention to this issue and all of your support!

      • jb

        Sorry, I meant describe the problems and try to enlist help from others outside the company. P&G does this for new product initiatives as does the Pentagon (they got “attach industrial leaf blowers to front of vehicles to blow away debris covering IEDs”, “attach ‘boat hulls’ beneath vehicles to deflect bomb blasts and more from outside the Pentagon) . Doesn’t always work, but one way to think “outside the box” is to work with others outside your box.

        Hackers – There’s a reason Bush invaded Iraq (whether you agreed or not) and not Iran (many at the time argued “why not North Korea or Iran?”). North Korea has 10K pieces of artillerary within range of Seoul (and lots of other nasty stuff). In contrast, Iran will eventually bubble up from within. Just a matter of time if we allow information to freely flow within and in/out of that country. Instead of social networking sites, bank’s, etc., focus your energies on these electronic bans. Live a little and join their revolution.

  • http://www.yukiba.com/ Mark

    The situation in Iran is just getting worse and worse.

  • lia

    I think the reason behind the ban is not merely the flirting part of the service.

    The current regime has banned all major social networking sites and Iranians are trying to use whatever tools they can get their hands on to disseminate and spread the news of their efforts to the outside world.

    I wish them best of luck

  • http://twitter.com/Espen_Antonsen Espen Antonsen

    “especially when mobile Web access is almost impossible”

    Not correct. It is in fact the opposite. I used IranCell (owned by MTN) two years ago and mobile internet access was cheap and easily available in all major cities (IranCell’s coverage was not very good outside cities). I was unaware of it until a young guy on the bus told me about it. He lived in the holy city of Qom where Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and many mullahs reside.

    It should also be noted that it is the ISP’s themselves who individually enforce censorship. When I was in Iran in 2008 Facebook could be accessed in some cities but could be blocked along with Flickr, Blogger in Tehran. Off course this censorship is guided and ultimately controlled by the government, but as stated; differences occurs between ISPs.

    More importantly; most cofeenets (internet cafe) and many internet users (young and tech-savvy) use proxies to access blocked sites.

  • james

    many of google service are banned in iran but by GOOGLE and not the Iranian government. I know of one person trying to build something to help the green movement in Iran using the app engine, except no on in Iran can access the app engine service as google detects their IP address and has blocked the service.

  • David Ord

    This has something to do with national security doesn’t it?

  • http://www.socialnetworkingwatch.com/2010/01/badoo-is-banned-in-iran.html Social Networking Watch

    Badoo Is Banned In Iran…

    TECH CRUNCH – Jan 5 – Badoo, a social network popular in emerging markets like Russia and Brazil, has been banned in Iran. Badoo runs a fine line between a social network and a dating or (more accurately) a flirting……

  • Ivan S

    Alexa puts Badoo as site number 112 in Brazil and 1,218 in Russia. How popular is that exactly? It goes on to say the site is most popular in Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Angola, Tunisia. These don’t look quite like ’emerging markets’ to me.

    I know it’s not the point of the article, but sometimes it’s nice to be a little more accurate in the leads.

    • http://twitter.com/Espen_Antonsen Espen Antonsen

      Who cares about Alexa? I hope people will soon realize it is irrelevant and a poor metric for web site popularity.

  • petra

    Ivan, Alexa is hardly the word in accurate statistics.

    • http://badoo.fr Mike

      Yes, also Ivan, you missed a few numbers from Alexa:

      26th in Spain, 29th in Venezuela, 38th in Italy, 40th in Czech Republic, 45th in IRAN, 76th in France

      We run a slightly more dating orientated white-label in the Russian market under mamba-ru (64th in Russia) through hundreds of portals including love-rambler-ru, love-mail-ru, dating-ru-msn-com, etc.

      Sometimes it’s nice to do a little more thorough research ;)

      Have a good one!

  • http://marketingtypo.com/2010/01/07/social-network-badoo-is-banned-in-iran/ Social network Badoo is banned in Iran « MarketingTypo.com

    […] According to the The Committe Against Censorship In Iran (Google translate version, @proxyiran) software and tech companies based in Iran like like Gostar Sharif and Pars Online, the biggest Internet service provider in the country, are largely complicit with the Iranian government in the censorship of web sites hosted outside the country. View full post on TechCrunch Europe […]

  • http://blog.politiken.dk/kosmopolit/2010/01/07/internetcensurens-klamme-hand-kommer-til-danmark/ Internetcensurens klamme hånd kommer til Danmark « Ida Jeng « blog.politiken.dk

    […] denne uge er det Iran, den er gal med, hvor autoriteter har censureret Badoo, en platform à la Facebook, som er populær i Rusland, Brasilien og Iran. Hos Badoo kan man flirte, […]

  • aka

    What they don’t block they monitor. Just great

  • Moussa

    guys,
    it is actually blocked by the government.people have nowhere to go except house parties or parks.i have used the site in Iran and many people are simply using for socialising and authorities are worried that people warn each other of any problems.facebook is also blocked.i have not yet managed to use it in any cafenets or even dial up.so these mullas are trying to take back the country back to the 14th century and make Persia a part of arab world.

  • mostafa

    i ,m 55 years single. i.m living alone.my faverate.
    in my my empty nest was. sat & net. i waste my time. with badoo.& news from sat. right now both
    filtered by goverment.in this few thay i spent my time with some of my friends & drink.

  • ramin

    i want badoo, help me :(( i dated with someone i missed her

  • http://badoowebsit issah moro kachuu

    i am a single man looking for serious relationship leading to marriaged

  • http://badoowebsit issah moro kachuu

    razanba

  • http://gugoltech.com/badoo-baneado-en-iran/ Badoo baneado en Iran | GUGOLtech - Actualidad de Internet y Tecnología

    […] TechCrunch Sin comentarios Posteado por admin en Redes Sociales Tags Badoo, Badoo Baneado, Badoo Iran, Red […]

  • http://www.ciberwolf.com/2010/01/badoo-prohibido-en-iran.html Badoo prohibido en Irán

    […] Visto en: TechCrunch. […]

  • saeed

    filter shodim

  • http://badoo-is-banned/#comments anilpr

    hi i want good friends

  • kourosh

    i want badoo, help me :(

  • dave

    hi every one Im new here so im looking for firend specialy femal who liks have sirese relationship .
    goodluk

  • mostafa pashazdeh

    pls send my email add to my favorete that ican contact with them.

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