VCCorp, a leading Vietnamese internet company, launched its own social network called Lotus yesterday, committing an investment of at least USD 51 million in the next few years to build Lotus into a local competitor to existing household names such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
“In the past ten years, when I’m online and when I use social media to read and follow others, I don’t feel happy or comfortable,” VCCorp general director Nguyen The Tan, who spearheaded the costly project, said at the launch event. “Lotus was born to change that. We want Lotus to become the place where you can spread positivity and connect with ideas and people you truly care about.”
Lotus is the third made-in-Vietnam social network to go live this year amid the Vietnamese government’s ongoing struggle to work with tech giants Facebook and Google to eliminate what it calls “toxic content” on these platforms. Minister of information and communications Nguyen Manh Hung has repeatedly called for local tech firms to build their own social media network and search engines, so that internet users in Vietnam can be less reliant on the services of foreign firms like Facebook and Google.
The launch event of Lotus, which had the flavors of an Apple-style affair, generated a great deal of media buzz and scrutiny. One question persists: How will Lotus convince about 50 million social media users in the country to switch over from Facebook, which dominates in Vietnam?
According to Tan, Lotus is centered on good content, which can be created and uploaded by end-users, professional content creators, and key opinion leaders (KOLs). Lotus has built-in tools for content creators to create photo blogs or inspiring text, as well as design templates to customize posts on the platform. Aside from typical social media functions like video entertainment and news items, Tan said the difference will lie in its ability to publish in-depth content, and it will have three feeds instead of a single news feed like Facebook.
The three feeds will include a personalized news feed, a feed that includes a series of folders for more in-depth content that the users care about, and widgets such as weather or flight ticket trackers.
Lotus’ Token will also differ from Facebook’s Like button. Tokens are issued to users after they read a post, watch a video, or share something on the platform. More tokens will be issued to those who create popular content. The people behind Lotus emphasized the social network’s ambition to ensure that only “positive” content can be created and shown on the platform.
Speaking at the launch event, minister of information and communications Hung said investors, the tech community, and the government will work together to solve this issue of “national importance.” The goal is to have as many Vietnamese users on local social media networks as on foreign platforms by 2020.
Lotus’ first target is to have 4 million daily active users on its platform. Following the launch, many netizens expressed doubts about how Lotus will be able to pull users and KOLs out of Facebook and TikTok’s spheres of influence, which also places a heavy emphasis on original content creation. Lotus will also have to overcome the challenge of monitoring what its users upload in the country to ensure that “toxic content” doesn’t appear on its platform.
One more thing is telling: Where can you find all the buzz about Lotus? At the moment, it’s still on Facebook.