The bloggers said the company's announcement that it will close its worldwide Yahoo 360 Degrees service effective July 13 disrupted Vietnam's budding political and cultural online community.

'I feel like somebody played a dirty trick on me,' said Mai Hoang, 30, who has written a personal and cultural blog for over three years.

'The Yahoo 360 Degrees community has suffered a big loss, because they were used to using that site,' said Huy Duc, who blogs on controversial political issues. 'Now if they move to a new one, they have to spend time finding each other again.'

Yahoo 360 Degrees, which debuted in 2005, attracted few users globally compared to rival services such as MySpace and Facebook. The company first announced it would close the service in early 2008.

But the site was an unexpected success in Vietnam, where it remains the dominant social networking site.

Yahoo Vietnam director Vu Minh Tri said a study last month found that 85 per cent of Vietnamese who use online social networking were on Yahoo 360 Degrees.

The closure of the site is part of a Yahoo strategy to reorient its social networking worldwide.

'Currently if you're on Yahoo 360, you can't talk to Facebook or MySpace,' Tri said. 'The big Yahoo strategy is to connect all the social networks together.'

To avoid losing Vietnamese clients, Yahoo is offering a Vietnam-only successor called Yahoo 360 Degrees Plus. Tri said efforts had been made to allow users to easily migrate their earlier content and friend lists to the new site.

Several users said making the switch was still difficult. 'I spent about three months moving data,' said novelist and literary blogger Nguyen Quang Lap.

Under Vietnam's communist system, media and the arts are controlled and regulated by the government. There are few alternative outlets for independent political and cultural commentary, creativity, or civic engagement.

Over the past four years, communities of bloggers have begun to present such an alternative. While most bloggers are moving their sites to new hosts, some of Vietnam's early blogging history may be lost when Yahoo 360 Degrees shuts down.

Huy Duc, whose blog has hosted sharp debates on sensitive issues such as Vietnamese-Chinese relations and environmental degradation, moved to a different host, Wordpress.com, in April.

'I could only move my entries, not comments,' Duc said. 'I couldn't move all of my data, I had to ask friends for help.'

Freelance journalist Trinh Thu Trang said she may not manage to move the 1,000 photos and 300 entries on her blog before the deadline. 'When Yahoo 360 shuts down, a part of me will stay there,' Trang said.

Deutsche Presse Agentur - June 1st, 2009