Vietnam Wants to Create Homegrown Alternative to Facebook

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A Vietnamese social media network would have a tough time breaking into the country which boasts the world’s seventh-largest Facebook user base.

In the past, officials, including PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Minister of Information and Communication (MIC) Nguyen Manh Hung, have stated their desire for a local service and the idea was brought up again last month at Internet Day 2018, which is organized by the Vietnam Internet Association.

Le Duy Tien, a member of MIC’s task force on accelerating the development of Vietnam’s digital ecosystem, said a Vietnamese social network is one of its five major aims including establishing a native local search engine, browser, anti-virus software and operating system.

Vietnamese are ardent social media devotees, boasting 42 million daily and 60 million total Facebook users. The advantages to a native version were not expanded upon.

Vietnam already has more than 360 legal and homegrown social media networks, though most are in the form of forums which are limited in the functions and rudimentary in their designs. Others are simply chintzy knock-offs of foreign sites like Facebook.

While Vietnam-based Zalo has some users, representative of the National Institute of Information and Communications Strategy explained: “These foreign social networks are global companies that have high localization capability, which means they can provide their service to any region and expand to multiple markets by breaking geographical and language barriers.” He continued that people have little incentive to switch.

The world offers few models for how a Vietnamese social media site could topple Facebook. China has succeeded through draconian internet censorship and Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Iran and Japan are the only nations where Facebook is not the number one social media platform.

Facebook use in Vietnam, however, is not free of flaws or concerns. Individuals have used it to sell items without paying taxes and massive amounts of private data stored on the site are easily sold to private companies. The recent internet law that will require companies to establish servers and offices in Vietnam has caused some people to turn to other sites such as US-based, blockchain-powered Minds.

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