I recently checked the translation functionality of Facebook for Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese), and it was, well, really cool. The wording is quite accurate, and fits with the context of Vietnam. The community function is engaging, and they have gathered a bunch of cool enthusiasts getting translation for them for free just because these guys really love their Facebook pages.
It was a surprise for me that Facebook in Vietnamese could go that fast without any fanfare. Which may implicate a lot of difficult for Vietnamese Facebook clones, including FaceViet, Tamtay and Guongmat.
Last year, I predicted that Zoomban, the Facebook clone from VCCorporation will soon be come a winner once it is launched in late 2007. A lot of changes has taken place since then. Zoomban project was, to my surprise, canceled by VCC management. However, they were quite smart to stop this project in time, just imagine Zoomban’s position at the moment once Facebook Vietnamese version is launched. VCC opts for a painful but smart direction, so that they can have a better focus on what have made them different and well-positioned so far.
Which remains FaceViet, Tamtay and Guongmat in the battle again original Facebook-the-Vietnamese-language-version. Their worst scenario: Facebook launching the Vietnamese language in Vietnamese, and they even go further with a culturally relevant Vietnamese homepage and a Vietnamese domain name, Facebook.vn for instance! Worse even, Facebook, with the global brand awareness prowess, strike deals with major Vietnamese media owners, publishers and SNS to make them compatible with FB system and take them into FB ecosystem. Final move would be to organize a Developer Program for Vietnamese developers. By these initiatives, Facebook Vietnamese version would definitely dominate the local market and corner the local clones.
How are the Vietnamese FB clones performing? Guongmat is too slow in execution, so their opportunities have evaporated. FaceViet have been struggling for almost one year with many ups and downs, and now looks too much like other teenager-oriented SNS, which is a pity because of their excellent brandname and a young, dynamic management team. Tamtay is doing quite good on execution in terms of increasing their music and video inventory, but its core positioning is still not very clear.
Tamtay has video, photo, and all other social networking functionalities, but sadly enough most of these functionalities are so me-too and uncool. Its total registered users is more than 250,000, but it seems their DAU and MAU are much smaller, and a check with their traffic on Google Trends would show a not very impressive growth. The most problematic issue with Tamtay is its brand is “uncool”, while building a “cool” brand should be the must for any successful new brand (“cool” here should be understood as a combination of many attractive and engaging brand image attributes rather than a teen-oriented one, as a BMW is also consider “cool” in Vietnam though it is not for teenagers). But who knows with a (rumored) VC funding coming in, Tamtay would become more innovative in the future?
Can Vietnamese FB clones succeed? I stand by my view points one year ago that this is almost impossible. Vietnamese FB clones should not take the success of StudVZ or Xiaonei as their inspiration for a FB clone, but look thoroughly into the real insights of local consumers and develop innovative and disruptive products that can offer a differentiate value proposition from original international models. This would be a bit more difficult than cloning an international model, but a less riskier option once the authentic, original competitors move in and acquire Vietnamese consumers, who always prefer foreign brands to domestic ones if the followers are only imitators.