Pavel Klochkov, author of the project, Prihod.ru.
—Let’s start at the beginning. How did the idea of creating a website constructor arise?
—It all began when parish priests started coming to us with requests for the creation of their parish websites.
We are an IT company that works on the development of internet sites, portals, and various services and systems, including secular ones.
So, having created a number of sites at the request of people we knew, we came to the conclusion that this is not so convenient, because immediately after the site is created, other problems arise: who will support it, where will it be located, should we register a domain for them, etc. Then we would see that some functionality was lacking and we would have to complete it, or the opposite—we had created many possibilities for functionality right off the bat, and some part of them are not being used. That is how the idea of allowing parishes to create their own sites came up, and after some time, the site constructor Prihod.ru appeared. The project turned out to be so much in demand that soon we had to make a broader version not only for churches and monasteries, but also for deaneries, diocesan departments, and other Orthodox organizations.
In order to create the site with the help of the constructor it is enough to be able to place a photograph in Odnoklassniki (“classmates”, a popular Russian social network), for example—that is how simple it is. You go in, choose a name, categories (which are presented for your choice), design, and fill the site. Four steps in all.
Here we have placed special emphasis not only on technology, but on the presence of a technical support team that is ready to answer all sorts of questions our users might have, from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm daily.
—What is the dynamic of the project’s development?
—At the present, there are over 1800 sites; you can view the statistics—the number rises every day. Around three parish sites are created per day.
—Are there any analogous site constructors?
—There are other site constructors, like for example, Narod.ru or Ucoz.ru (in Russia), which are currently more well known, and have convenient and accessible functionality. These are essentially free services if you do not turn off the advertisements.
But you definitely have to turn them off, because they can’t be controlled. You never know what advertisement banner will pop up next. In some dioceses, these types of site constructors are forbidden for church use.
—But many people do not know about this problem when they create their sites on free constructors.
—Yes, and this is of course not the only question that comes up for people who have run up against their own site construction. Therefore, the main task of our project is not to get more people to use Prihod.ru, but so that they would have the opportunity to consult with our qualified specialists.
We give support to any creator of any church sites, including those who have created their own site without using our project. Anyone who does a parish site or is getting ready to do one can turn to our technical support services and receive a consultation. We will give them qualified help and explain how best to proceed in any specific situation, taking into consideration the budget constraints before the site creator, his objectives, and so on. After all, there are varying technologies—there are ready engines, ones for pay; you can ask a company to develop one…
—If your platform is so simple to use for sites created on Prihod.ru, there must be some restrictions?
—No, this is a fully functional site, with information departments, photo galleries, forums, question and answer, and guest book, with an unlimited volume of disc space offered to the site. There are, of course, certain limitations: for example, you can’t upload files through ftp protocol, and you have no access to the code for the template format. But for the inexperienced user, at which our constructor is aimed, these things are not needed.
If a parish has a professional designer and developer who understands the creation of websites, who is capable of making his own internet page without the aid of a ready constructor, that is good, of course. We are more geared to the majority—that is, those parishes where there are no such people, but where there is an obvious need for a website.
—Have there been cases of fake websites registering, such as pranksters trying to take advantage of the site constructor?
—Of course, as soon as we launched it various applications flooded in. What they didn’t try to create! Nevertheless, because we scrupulously inspect the registered websites, this flood quickly stopped, and now such instances are very rare. It could also be because information about the constructor is spread around in narrow circles.
—Could a person in a parish who wants to work on a website fulfill his own design plans?
—There is a choice of ready templates, which allow for minimal change. But information on the page can be formated however you want: you can choose the color, the font size, insert pictures, or use beautiful fonts—it all depends on the desire and imagination of the user.
—What direction of development, other than parish websites, do you envision for your project?
—Our constructor has other possibilities as well, which we are currently working on actively; for example, the creation of websites for Orthodox organizations, deaneries, and personal pages. A broadened functionality has been provided for such sites. As a gift to monasteries we are offering a second tier personal domain; that is, with a direct name.
Furthermore, within the framework of cooperation with parishes, we have launched a joint project with Pravoslavie.ru, which will unite this enormous web portal with local websites: all churches that have created their pages on Prihod.ru will end up on Pravoslavie.ru. And from Pravoslavie.ru, information such as news, articles, and media monitoring will export to the parish sites.
—Your project must be serviced by serious personnel. Who finances it?
—Yes, we have a whole team of professionals working for us. I finance this project with my own funds.
—What can you say about the development of the Orthodox segment of the internet in general?
—I am glad that internet technology is growing, that it is being assimilated by our Russian citizens, and not only by them, but by Orthodox people all over the world. New services are appearing, such as social networks, and there are some very good, serious portals. Even secular organizations with dedicated financing, advertising, and income are perhaps not experiencing such lively activity. Some Orthodox developers often have none of those advantages, but you can see that tens of thousands of websites are being created and continue to be created. This is amazing, happy news, and it speaks of how Orthodox culture is growing, that people who have come to the church now have a need for active work and for missionary help to other people.