If you look across the landscape of social in Southeast Asia, you see a world dominated by Facebook. Just to point out a few highlights, Indonesia just hit 64 million total Facebook users, Bangkok is the city with the most Facebook users in the world, and Vietnam is most likely the fastest growing Facebook nation in the world. In total, Southeast Asia, by my calculations, includes about 140 million Facebook users, and my thesis is it’s holding back other social media models from growing.
One example is LinkHay, Vietnam’s Digg, which existed prior to Facebook’s entrance to Vietnam. As the current managing director told me, LinkHay took a big hit in traffic after the arrival of Facebook. I’ve heard varying versions of this across the region. News portals, nascent social media sites, and even blogging platforms have all been hit hard by Facebook entering the region. They’ve either died, floundered, or learned to adapt and launch on top of Facebook.
So right now, Facebook is steamrolling Southeast Asia (let’s set aside the chat apps for a second), where some first-time internet users actually know about Facebook before they know about “the internet”. On one side, it’s great for the region, as people get more connected and can launch unique monetized platforms on top of it. On the other hand, many social media startups with potential are being squashed before they can even sprout. Why start a new localized Reddit that can combine online communities when we’ve got people sharing and liking links on Facebook? Why start a news aggregator when we’ve got Facebook? Thus, Southeast Asia’s internet remains dominated by forums in some nations and Facebook is the sole uniter across the region as a whole (and sometimes Twitter).
But it won’t always be like this. Eventually the tides will change, albeit years from now. We’re going to have to wait for Facebook’s growth to even out before we start to see some really unique social media platforms that address the more specific needs of internet users (like topic-based sites like Quora). Facebook is now at the forefront of Southeast Asian users’ social media habits and needs, but as they get more acclimated and bored with Facebook, more models are going to rise. It’s just too bad it’s still too early for that. Facebook has all the users, and it’s hard to take them away right now.
 64,000,000 (Indonesia) + 12,800,000 (Vietnam) + 18,000,000 (Thailand) + 30,000,000 (Philippines) + 13,300,000 (Malaysia) + 250,000 (Laos) + 700,000 (Cambodia) + 80,000 (Myanmar) = 139,130,000 total. This does not include East Timor and Brunei, whose populations are quite small. Most of these numbers are from early 2013.