Done by:

Niko as concept creator and designer
Myself as concept creator
Alcozombie [behance] as designer

Note that I am crediting only the concept people because we only did the concept. Yandex.Zen itself was done by the in-house team whom I would galdly credit if I knew their names.
Facebook is hardly a faithful reflection of how people treat each other. I will not scold social media for the lack of humane touch, but I also don't accept them as a bona fide, full-featured, neutral communication environment.

Niko and I thought it possible to recreate content features of Facebook but dump the undesirable and inferior social aspect. Thus Yandex.Zen was born, a Facebook without people. It quickly took off and attracted tens of millions of users in Russia and Brazil.
This is what Yandex Russia currently looks like. On the bottom are three blocks of the Zen feed.
Facebook has ways to motivate you to do, post or read things that you wouldn't otherwise do, post or read. In real life, you don't wish a happy birthday to a random guy whom you saw in a pub two years ago. On Facebook, not only you do—at times it's socially awkward not to.
(For how Facebook is actually amazing and I am merely whining, see this thread. For how Facebook is pure evil, see this article.)
So yes, with new means to talk come new ways of feeling guilty, awkward or unfulfilled about it.
In many ways, you are Facebook's tool and not vice versa. In return for your social services, Facebook gives you a feed of sorta interesting content, but never really fully satisfactory—so you have to constantly open the app in the vain attempt to find something interesting.

We thought we could recreate such a feed, giving all benefits without the cost of useless social signalling.
Above: at the very beginning we thought of the Zen.Feed as a vertical feed of 'brochures': horizontally swipable content elements. Here you can see examples of brochures dedicated to music, apps, films and books. After all, this is what you read about on Facebook, don't you.
Again, don't get me wrong: Facebook may do a lot of good to you. In fact, good or bad is how you think of it. E.g. wishing happy birthday to more people may be good. But social things have little to do with the feed. The feed, intrinsically, ceased to be social, it's content-centric. This is precisely the point and the issue at hand.

It's not hard to gather stuff from a bunch of sources so that they are interesting to a given human. All you really need is a machine-learning system and a couple of controls. Actually, that's what Zen looks like in countries where it hasn't been launched properly: just a content feed with a couple of controls.

To the left: Zen in the Netherlands is quite boring still.
But Facebook has its own genres. Above all, the content is inline, i.e. most things are not hidden behind a click. Things are typically short. There are a lot of pictures.

So you need a goof tool to compose Facebook-like things and you need incentive for people to do that. The latter comes in form of huge traffic that Yandex has. The former is a brainchild of the current Zen Editor-in-Chief, Daniel Trabun [LinkedIn, FB].
Above: this is how we envisaged Yandex main page back in 2014.

I probably have more to say about feeds and their current role, but I feel that I have spent too much of my readers' time and so I will be silent.
the release of Zen, several major companies also announced personal recommendation services. [...] In August 2016, Google launched a test version of a similar service that recommends news articles. [...] Apple and Facebook have also launched news services with similar functionality.

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