Vietnamese Facebook clones’ face-off Part 2: VC’s Zoomban prepares inroad

As I wrote earlier that VC Corp is busy preparing their own Facebook clone, now its Zoomban.com is planning to go public, heating up the already crowded marketplace. Now it’s time to check the performance of the key players: FaceViet, Tamtay, Guongmat, and some predictions on the competition once Zoomban is officially launched.

FaceViet has just launched its new platform, upgraded its server capacity and adding more entertainment features. Its new interface is cooler, but less elegant than the former and, strangely enough, is somewhat like LinkedIn! I actually prefer the old interface, because of its simplicity and crystal convenience (or maybe I’m too old to like cool things). I guess FaceViet has changed both its source code and interface too. The most remarkable functionality of the new FaceViet is its “Entertainment” feature, which provides a quite big library of online music and movies. This has proved a good tactical move, as FaceViet’s Alexa ranking has rocketed in the past few days because of this entertainment function. However, as the Vietnamese government, i.e. Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, has recently requested all pirate online music websites in Vietnam to strictly follow the Law on Intellectual Ownership, FaceViet’s move will be very risky in the coming time. FaceViet also provides its own vertical search engine that helps users find music and movie files.

My forecast: With all these moves, FaceViet has regained good traffic improvements, but in the longer term, its business model becomes more confused. It seems FaceViet will continue its evolution with a focus on music and movie, and become a portal like VinaGame’s Zing.

Guongmat has made almost no progress since the last time I wrote about them in November 2007, except for a new interface, and again has a strikingly similarity to FaceViet, especially the silver-colored design template. It also allows users to customize background pictures and “themes”. Actually I quite like Guongmat’s simplicity and some of its very convenient features like photo uploading process, but Guongmat has became a little bit too boring and provides no differentiation among the Vietnamese Facebook clones.

My forecast: Guongmat need to look into its inner self to find where are its core competencies and what kind of value proposition and business model it is crafting, or other players like FaceViet, Tamtay and the upcoming Zoomban will put a full stop to Guongmat.

Tamtay.vn has made some good progress in terms of traffic and customer acquisition. It now boasts more than 100,000 registered users, but most of these users have very little activity on Tamtay. From my perception, most users coming to Tamtay are teenagers, and they came there mostly because of Tamtay’s good selection of sexy photos and updated online movies! This is a smart short term tactic, but in the long term “bribing” customers with sex will only diminish the long term value proposition and brand equity.

My forecast: I’m quite impressed with Tamtay’s performance, but again it will need to redefine a long term business model and a strong differentiation strategy, or it will trail behind Clip.vn in terms of online video and the upcoming Zoomban in terms of social networking functionalities.

Among the Facebook clones, VC Corp’s Zoomban would be the most exciting to watch. With VC Corp’s tons of cash, technology capabilities and smart marketing initiatives, I guess Zoomban will soon become the biggest player and cause a lot of difficulties for both FaceViet and Tamtay. A good, fun, attractive user interface combined with delicate social networking functionalities will make Zoomban outstanding among its competitors. VC Corp’s widely reached Internet properties, including Dantri, TTVNOL, Baamboo, Sannhac, ChannelVN etc… will soon help Zoomban with a lot of free media value that FaceViet and Tamtay could never dream of.

My forecast: It’s too early to make any forecast, but I guess Zoomban will score an early home run when it is launched in the next few months. However after that it will need to define a clear business model while the original Facebook is in its own difficulty finding an appealing social ad platform after Beacon has come to a full failure.

The competition ahead between Vietnamese Facebook clones is now somewhat not very intriguing, as we’ve already sketch out the possible market leader. The more interesting thing is how the winner will find a way to make money on the back of their social graph and justify a differentiation with the original, authentic Facebook. For my part, I would stick to my viewpoint that Facebook is a uniquely US phenomenon and any attempt to replicate Facebook in another culture and country are too much risky, with China’s Xiaonei and the likes as good reference.