Facebook discreetly launches Chinese photo app

Internet giant tries to work round ban on mainland and launches new product through local company without its branding being attached

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 August, 2017, 1:51pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 August, 2017, 10:42pm

Facebook’s interest in mainland China has prompted it to create a photo-sharing application that has been released discreetly, without the social network’s brand being attached.

“We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country in different ways,” a Facebook representative said.

“Our focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform.”

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A source close to the matter confirmed a New York Times report that Facebook took the unusual step of creating an app called Colorful Balloons and releasing it through a local company with no hint that the social network was involved.

Colorful Balloons has features similar to Facebook’s Moments application.

Facebook has long been keen to find a way into mainland China, where the social network has been banned since 2009.

Google, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook are among the Silicon Valley leaders banned from China’s tightly controlled internet.

Facebook chief and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has made high-profile visits to China and met political leaders there, and is even studying Putonghua.

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Colorful Balloons was released early this year through a separate Chinese company, according to The New York Times. It quoted someone close to the matter who did not want to be identified, citing the political sensitivity of the situation.

Facebook is interested in learning how apps become popular in China, without having a prominent company name associated with it. This could help explain the quiet approach.

Having a company in China to distribute the application could also be more efficient if that firm has the right business connections and is familiar with local rules.