Facebook is trying anything they can to break into China.
According to an unnamed company source, Facebook approved the Chinese debut of a photo-sharing app they designed called Colorful Balloons. China has long since banned Facebook and several of its apps, including Instagram. This new app does not carry the Facebook name or brand and debuted in May, but was only reported on very recently.
Colorful Balloons was created by a local Chinese company called Youge Internet Technology. It feels very similar to Facebook Moments, down to the instantly recognizable color scheme. This stealthy release is a bold move for a market like China, and it clearly proves that even the largest companies in the world can be at wits end as they try to break into the largest online market in the world. China has close to 1.4 billion citizens, and over half of them are connected to the internet. The population collectively buys $750 billion worth of goods online every year, so it is clear why Facebook would go to such lengths to enter the country.
China is heavily involved in internet censorship, banning other major internet entities such as Google. Strict rules often mean apps must completely gut their content or be forced to shut down completely. Another Facebook owned app, WhatsApp, was partially blocked last month as well. Colorful Balloons may not break into the market like Facebook has done so in other parts of the world, but it offers a window into Chinese citizens online habits. Facebook can then use this information and cater the delivery of other content towards this massive market.
“We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country in different ways,” Facebook said in a release.
One thing that remains uncertain is if Chinese regulators knew about Facebook’s ties to Colorful Balloons. Essentially, Facebook handed off a completed app to Youge Internet Technology then washed their hands of any involvement. In what seems like some kind of spy movie development, people tried to visit the office of Youge, but the physical location did not exist. If authorities such as the Cyberspace Administration of China are not aware of Facebook’s connection, the app’s days are surely numbered.
Colorful Balloons connects users through China’s most popular social network, WeChat. This proves the app’s intentions to specialize for a local audience. Colorful Balloons collates images from a users phone then shares them via a QR code.
Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg has had an odd relationship with China in the past. In an effort to break through to the country, he has learned Mandarin and visited several times. All these efforts may prove fruitless though, as many believe Western internet technology infiltration is still just a colorful pipedream for the South Asian country.