Vietnam’s social networks run race with the world’s technology giants

May 4, 2021 | 09:14 am GMT+7

Governments around the world are trying to restrain the power of technology giants, which presents a great opportunity for Vietnam’s social networks to establish their foothold with their own characteristics.


Social media is one of the fastest growing technology trends, with 3.8 billion users as of the end of 2020.

Of the four Big Techs, including Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, or GAFA, half are social network tycoons.

Though having made great contributions to creating a digital world, the two giants Google and Facebook have recently been involved in a number of problems.

The two social networks dominate the online ad market, which has created manipulation in the market and hindered competition from weaker rivals.

Google and Facebook now control 70 percent of the digital ad market in the US. Meanwhile, a report of eMarketer showed that the two companies make up more than half of online ad revenue in Vietnam.

In an effort to restrain the impact from Facebook and Google, Australia has become the first country to require the two giants to pay for news content provided by media companies under a royalty system.

In retaliation, Facebook blocked the content of the Australian press. Its action raised alarm bells over the threat that platforms owned by tech giants can cause.

This is not the first time that technology giants have challenged state power. Most recently, large social networks blocked the accounts of the former US President Donald Trump.

The big power of the Big Techs has caused concern among governments in the world and prompted them to take actions to restrain power.

Opportunities for Vietnam

These actions are believed to create great opportunities for smaller platforms, including Vietnam’s social networks.

Zalo is the largest Vietnamese social network with 60 million users as of November 2020, as estimated by VietNamNet. The second largest domestic network is Mocha with 12 million members, while the third and fourth positions belong to Gapo (6 million) and Lotus (2.5 million).

Regarding the growth rate, Zalo had 20 million more members just after two years, or 50 percent higher than in 2018.

As for Mocha, the number of users is not high, but the scale of the platform has increased by 2.67 times compared with two years ago. The others, including Gapo and Lotus, have also shown significant capability after one year of operation. Both of them made debut in 2019.

Vietnam also has hundreds of forums, such as Tinhte with 16 million visits a month, Voz (11 million), Webtretho (7 million) and Otofun (2 million). These show the sustainable vitality of traditional social network platforms.

The figures show that Vietnam’s social networks in recent years have been growing rapidly both in quantity and quality, which serves as an important prerequisite for the development of Vietnamese businesses and the digital economy in the country in the future.

Which way to follow?

No matter how powerful they are, technology giants may also be defeated by changes in technology trends. The collapse of Yahoo and Nokia is an example.

Trends in the future include the appearance of centralized social networks, small-scale social networks (a fee is required), audio social networks, and social networks targeting domestic users or certain organizations or businesses.

In general, new social networks will not succeed if they just imitate Facebook. They need to find a ‘common denominator’, which are basic human needs, regardless of country, age, sex or profession.

New social networks should also allow players to determine their own "rules of the game". This is done by opening algorithms.

Experts say new social networks could be built with the development of many ‘filters’ which would be tailored to the needs and conditions of every nation.

Once general questions are solved, people will have bigger demands – solving the questions of smaller groups that have more specific characteristics. These characteristics cannot be imitated, because only those who are born and grow up in a land can understand the culture of the locality. This presents a great opportunity for Vietnam’s social networks.

This is one of the reasons for the increasing popularity of Zalo. The social network has been going its own way as it has developed from a messaging app for mobile phones.

Zalo is a typical localized social network as it solves a question which cannot be done by others – allowing people to send image files to each other with high quality. Online public services and information portals have also been gradually integrated, turning Zalo into a reliable address for people to use when necessary.

Started in Vietnam and created by Vietnamese, made-in-Vietnam social networks understand well what Vietnamese want. They can win Vietnamese hearts and establish footholds for themselves. This is proof of the sustainable existence of Davids in the war with Goliaths.