When the pilot version of the go.vn site (www.goonline) was launched this week, it caused a bit of an international dust-up with one major social network and the netizens of Vietnam. Seems like Facebook can't cut a break any where in the world these days!
According to an AFP wire, some believe that the site was created as a result of allegations that the Le Doan HopVietnamese communist government restricted Facebook and hacked numerous political Web sites. The Minister of Information and Communication Le Doan Hop dismissed this charge plus another that the network was developed to eliminate Google and Yahoo.
Instead, Hop stated, "we are ready to have clean competition. People will come to places where there is culture, value and benefits." Hop did not give the cost of the Web site, which he said must be a "trustworthy address" for net users and a "rich source of knowledge." "Go.vn can serve more than four million users at once, and aims to attract up to 50 percent of social network users by 2015," Hop said.
While the release indicated that "western donors said in December that Vietnam's restrictions on news media and Web sites such as Facebook threatened the country's rapid economic progress," it didn't elaborate as how? It was also noted that some of the country's Internet users favor Facebook and "continue to use alternative means to access it."
Some Facebook users dismissed the new network as a Facebook imitator. One said Facebook is being blocked so that go.vn can reach its user targets. A "Bring Facebook Back" fan page was started on December 26, 2009 and the following 'catchy' YouTube parody video was produced as a means of protest.
The government says that currently about 25 percent of Vietnam's population use the Internet, and a top United Nations communications official said last year that the country's development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) -- including mobile and fixed-line telephones as well as Internet and broadband -- was outpacing other Asian nations.
The go.vn website this week featured celebrity and lifestyle news, much of it from overseas, as well as links to games, music, email, nightclubs and other activities.
The front page carried historical briefings about founding president Ho Chi Minh, the April 30, 1975 communist victory in Saigon, and a story about legendary General Vo Nguyen Giap.
Many believe the government wants a safe haven for its netizens to use that will not provide them with a political forum. Western sites like Facebook, Google and Yahoo are too open and threaten a government that wants to control the voice of its people. The government appears to have set up go.vn for people only interested in networking on "non-sensitive issues, as an alternative to Facebook that has been used for other purposes", a Western diplomat stated. Can you imagine what this government must think about Facebook's Open Graph?