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Facebook secretly launches photo-sharing app ‘Colorful Balloons’ in China

Facebook has launched an app Colorful Balloons in China which is a clone of Facebook Moments.

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Facebook and many other social networking apps and sites have been banned in China for many years. The social media giant has consistently tried to enter the Chinese market but has been rebuffed. China instead uses different social sharing platforms like Weibo and WeChat. As per a latest report, Facebook has now stealthily entered China by launching a new photo sharing app, Colorful Balloons through another name.

Facebook is in no way affiliated with the Colorful Balloons app and the giant has kept its name away. Though under a different name, the app is a clone of the Facebook Moments app. The app was launched back in May and has been extremely popular with the Chinese community. The app was released through a local company, Young LLC and the Chinese authorities have not been made aware of any Facebook association with the local company in any manner. First reported by New York Times, the app gives Facebook insight into Chinese usage and understanding of how the population shares photos.

However, the quiet approach might create further complications for Facebook than resolve them. Mark Zuckerberg has been in talks with Chinese politicos regarding approval to launch Facebook in China but with no success. In addition to Facebook, Google hasn’t received permissions to operate in China.

“It’s not a mere business thing,” said Teng Bingsheng, a professor of strategic management at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in the report, “It’s politics.” In a statement, Facebook said, “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 report also mentions that the app is available on the iOS store but it is unclear if Android users can also download the Colorful Balloons photo sharing app.

Interestingly, Youge Internet Technology, the company that registered the app doesn’t have a valid address. The director of the company is a lady believed to be associated with Facebook, suggests the report. However, instead of launching a standalone app, the Colorful Balloons app is interlinked through WeChat, China’s most popular messaging platform. The sharing of photos happens through a QR code scanner. Facebook has also taken steps to ensure that the app is not widely publicized – the app cannot be shared through in-app links. Users wishing to download it must visit the Apple store and search for the exact app. ALSO READ: A diverse workplace leads to better decisions: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

The tactic might not win Facebook any favor with the Chinese government, already cracking down on use of free internet. Facebook has also been rumored to be working on a secret censorship tool which will let it bypass certain laws in the country. Facebook is trying to expand its userbase and with intense growing competition, the social media giant is facing a tough time expanding users. With the largest population, China is one of the most coveted markets for most technology giants. With details of Colorful Balloon going public, it remains to be seen if China takes any further action against the giant.