The VNG Joint Stock Company, which owns Zalo, has committed to apply for a license to continue operating the social-media domains Zalo.vn and Zalo.me. — Photo vneconomy.vn
HCM CITY — The VNG Joint Stock Company, which owns Zalo, a free Vietnamese mobile phone and messaging app, last Saturday committed to apply for a license after HCM City authorities decided to revoke Zalo’s two social-media online domains for operating without a license, according to Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper on Saturday.
The Việt Nam Internet Network Information Centre (VNNIC) was asked by the city’s Department of Information and Communications to revoke the two domains, Zalo.vn and Zalo.me, by Friday (July 19).
The department said VNG must apply for a social network license for Zalo to continue operating.
The Zalo Group, which is part of VNG, told authorities that Zalo is an over-the-top (OTT) application, not a social media service.
“Approval is needed because Việt Nam has yet to issue any policy on the management of OTT apps, and Zalo’s operation is similar to a social media service,” Nguyễn Đức Thọ, chief inspector of the department, said.
He said the company paid a fine imposed by the department last year for the same violation. The company at that time was also asked to provide necessary documents for approval, but it has never done so, Thọ said.
“Other social media service providers in Việt Nam have obtained approval before going public,” he said.
Lawyer Vũ Quang Đức, of the HCM City Bar Association, said it was important to define whether Zalo operates as a social network or an OTT application.
“If it is a social network, authorities rightly sanctioned Zalo for not having a license, which could significantly affect their operations,” he said.
The two domains, as well as the mobile app, could still be accessed on Saturday afternoon by a reporter at Việt Nam News.
The VNG Joint Stock Company, which owns Zalo, has committed to apply for a license to continue operating the social-media domains Zalo.vn and Zalo.me. — VNS Photo Bồ Xuân Hiệp
Speaking at a meeting on Friday, Trần Minh Tân, director of VNNIC, said the centre received a directive from the Department of Information and Communications about the decision to revoke the domains.
“The domains have not been revoked. If VNG resolves the licensing issue soon, these two domains won’t be revoked,” Tân told VnEconomy newspaper.
Launched in 2012, Zalo has more than 46.7 million accounts in Việt Nam, according to the Ministry of Information and Communications. However, Zalo said the number is 100 million, according to Tuổi Trẻ newspaper.
Zalo processes about 900 million messages, 50 million minutes of calls and 45 million images each day, the paper said.
Zalo is considered a leading OTT app in Việt Nam compared to its foreign competitors such as Viber, Line and the Facebook-owned WhatsApp. Zalo offers sharing of photos at high speed, video calls, automatically deleted messages, group livestream, and sharing of files of up to 1GB.
OTT applications provide a product over the internet and bypass traditional distribution. The services are typically related to media and communication, and are generally, if not always, lower in cost than traditional methods of delivery.
In Việt Nam, Facebook and Zalo are the two most popular messaging and social media services, according to a survey by Q&Me, a Việt Nam-based online market research company. — VNS