FB secretly launches app in China, with a different name

Image Schiefelbein  AP  REX  Shutterstock

Image Schiefelbein AP REX Shutterstock

The under-the-table approach could cause Facebook new difficulties with the Chinese government that has maintained strict control over foreign tech companies. The app, called Colorful Balloons, is similar to Facebook's Moments application in function and feel, but does not carry the Facebook name.

Facebook has been officially blocked in China since 2009, and parts of WhatsApp's service were recently blocked within the country's borders. But according to The New York Times, Facebook might have found a subtle workaround to penetrating the country.

To hide Facebook's tracks, the app was released by a separate local company, called Youge Internet Technology, registered in eastern Beijing, leaving no traces of the social media platform's link to it. As we said, the local company doesn't show any affiliation with Facebook.

In a statement to the Times, Facebook did not confirm or deny its involvement with Colorful Balloons. "We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country in different ways", the company said. The successful launching of the "Colorful Balloons" on the other hand subtly allowed Facebook to study the pattern of the country's 700 million internet users' social media usage.

It was unclear if China's various internet regulators were aware of the app's existence, the Times said.

It's no secret how badly Facebook wants to take on the Chinese market. Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg has made repeated attempts to woo Chinese authorities, learning Mandarin and even touting a book by President Xi Jinping.

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