In the early 2000s, when Vietnam joined the internet for a few years, the number of digital services provided by local suppliers was low, Thang Duc Thang and Truong Dinh Anh – The founders of VnExpress saw a great future opportunity that “One day the whole country of Vietnam is going to read the newspaper via internet!” Realized that dream, VnExpress was officially born.

From the first generation of technology

Website and Content Management System (CMS) version 1.0 of VnExpress were developed from the end of 2000 and ran on trial on February 15, 2001. VnExpress officially launched on February 26, 2001. The website was programmed in VBScript on ASP.NET web application,  using Unicode fonts.  Being programmed in the VB6 language that interacted with ActiveX Object in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser, CMS worked as a software installed on a computer that enabled VnExpress’s editors to do the editing as in Microsoft Word and save offline on the computer.

Due to poor functionality of the HTML version, ActiveX Object was the best choice back then, but there was also a huge limitation, that is, the website could only run on the Internet Explorer. Only after the CMS system was updated with the new multi-browser support, were the entire VnExpress editors free from this good old browser.

Picture 1. Mr. Dinh Anh and Mr. Thang on the 1st birthday of VnExpress.

The turning-point in content development

Following the success of VnExpress, the years 2004 and 2005 marked the birth of electronic newspapers such as Star, Gamethu, Digitization, then iOne, Travel, etc. The expansion demand also swelled the system up and made it heavy, causing difficulties in developing new features based on existing technologies. At the same time, building a convergence office instead of independent management systems resulted in burden of human resources, which was a difficult problem that technical teams needed to puzzle out.

In 2012, VnExpress decided to move to Open Source. Switching from a Microsoft technological platform such as C++, ASP Classic, .NET to Open Source was a turning point that helped solve the problem.

The processes of transforming 10-year massive data of VnExpress system to open source lasted for years as it required the technical team to work on the transformation while still having to make sure the online downtime was zero. Starting from pages Sports, Digitization, Entertainment and then VnExpress, Family, in turn, was successfully transformed. On the 15th of May 2013, Business – the last page was ultimately transformed, marking the completion of convergent content management system.

Picture 2. VnExpress’s office structure.

Pioneer in application of digital technology

Along with the growth of readers, ways of accessing to online newspapers have changed also. People have more tendency to use mobile and other devices rather than PC. Following this trend, in 2014, VnExpress redesigned its website to be displayed and applicable on every device. The technical team again played an important role in transforming this huge system.

In order to meet the growth of content and to improve readers’ experience, the technical team has constantly researched and deployed many new technologies to present contents in several forms such as  Longform, Interactive, e-Magazine, LiveStream, CDN deployment on ISPs and International. SSL and HTTP2 applications allow VnExpress to become one of the few digital content providers in Vietnam that support these certifications. Currently, technical team is on progress to do research and test some technologies like recommendation systems, chatbot, personalized readers. Very soon, AI applications will be used in the publishing activities.

In 2017, deploying FPT Online was honored to be the first digital content provider in Vietnam to deploy Ipv6. The task was even completed two years ahead of the original plan of the Nation task force for IPv6 promoting and development (Vietnam Internet Network Information Center – VNNIC). The achievement was acknowledged by the Ministry of Information and Communications and an award was given to Infrastructure Manager Nguyen Ngoc Son and technical center of FPT Online.

The technical team has been accompanied the development pathway of VnExpress. With continuous research and applying the newest technologies, along with setting a higher goal to strive, FPT Online’s technical team and VnExpress are contributing to building a modern electronic newspaper platform, catching up the world’s trend.

                                                      About the authors:

FPT Online technical center

VnExpress technical center now has more than 80 members and four functional units. Technical center plays the role of managing, operating and developing the online newspaper system, advertising system as well as all technical systems of FPT Online company. The R&D department focus on research and development of new technology, delivery product’s application to development team, and Technical Solution team takes part in the design architecture suitable with Core Platform.

(Published on the FPT Technology Magazine, FPT TechInsight No.2)

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