Facebook tests the waters in China with stealth app


Facebook tests the waters in China with stealth app

In a bid to explore the high-potential Chinese online market, Facebook has authorised the release of a new app here that does not carry its name.

But that's much to the dismay of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg who - despite having learned Mandarin and having made several trips there to negotiate - has seen no success in bringing its cache of marquee apps - Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and others - to China, seen as tightly controlled and often censored.

Colorful Balloons was released early this year through a separate Chinese company, the New York Times reported.

Facebook and many of its apps have been blocked in China for years.

The Colorful Balloons app and Moments
The Colorful Balloons app and Moments

And local companies have already stepped in to fill the social media void. App Colorful Balloons was released through a local company, without any hints on the connection with Facebook.

It is unclear whether China's various internet regulators were aware of the app's existence.

"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 spokesperson said by email.

This isn't the only time Facebook has tried to tap into the Chinese market. Videos of him speaking Mandarin have gone viral, as did a photo of him jogging on a dangerously smoggy day through Tiananmen Square in Beijing. However, the executive director of the purported developer, Zhang Jingmei, has attended at least one crucial meeting between Facebook and Chinese officials - there's a real chance that she's a Facebook adviser or employee. The app looks eerily similar to the company's Moments app. Colorful Balloons instead links users through China's biggest social network, WeChat. However, it seems like Facebook is trying to make sure the app doesn't spread photos widely, which could be a way to keep the project under the radar.