Despite the fact that Facebook apps are almost entirely banned in China, Facebook has covertly launched a photo-sharing app in the country minus the ubiquitous Facebook brand – understandably so, considering the ban.
According to a New York Times report, the American networking giant authorized a local company called the Youge Internet Technology to launch the app in the country in May. The app is named “Colorful Balloons” and, while it may not have the Facebook brand name attached to it, it has been designed along the lines of Facebook Moments.
The last active Facebook product in the country, the popular messaging application WhatsApp, got partially blocked as China enforced an online clampdown last July in a bid to tighten its control over cyber security. The move has served as a catalyst in shoring up the popularity of China’s indigenous messaging app WeChat owned by Tencent and the micro-blogging service, Weibo.
In an email response to an AFP inquiry, a Facebook representative said Friday:
“We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country in different ways.”
“Our focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform,” the statement further said.
According to the NYT, it is not yet known if China’s internet regulatory authorities are aware of the new app.
The Times also reports that the app cannot be downloaded from a shared link; it has to be downloaded from an app store.
Back in February, Zuckerberg had ruled out any expansion plans in the People’s Republic, saying there would be “no news at all in the near term.” However, the fact that he has made some “high-profile visits” to China meeting with leaders with political clout and even studying Mandarin, is kind of contradictory to his February statement.
The New York Times sums up its piece rather well, saying that the surreptitious “release of an app by a major foreign technology company in China is unprecedented.”
“It shows the desperation — and frustration — of global tech companies as they try to break into the world’s largest online market. It also underscores the lengths they are willing to go and their increasing acceptance of the idea that standards for operating in China are different from elsewhere.”