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Facebook tests ‘China potential’ with sneaky app

Facebook has acknolwedged it was behind the Colorful Balloons application, which is quite similar to its Moments app but doesn’t come with Facebook-branding.

tech Updated: Aug 15, 2017 17:54 IST
Facebook,Facebook china,colorful balloons app
Analysts voice doubts that Facebook will fully enter the Chinese market any time soon. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)(AP)

China is known for a “Great Firewall” that allows it to keep a greater control over the internet content. It has already banned the apps like Facebook. However, this hasn’t deterred Facebook from trying to sample its potential in China. The social networking giant last week acknowledged

it was behind the Colorful Balloons application, which is similar to its Moments app but omits any mention of Facebook’s brand name.

Facebook chief executive and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has made high-profile visits to China and met with political leaders. He is even studying Mandarin. “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 last week after the app’s origin was revealed by The New York Times.

But analysts voiced doubts that Facebook will fully enter the Chinese market any time soon, and the app has had a humble beginning since it emerged in May. According to San Francisco firm App Annie, Colorful Balloons ranked 46th in the photo and video category for iPhone apps in China and a lowly 758th among all apps.

“Facebook threw a curve ball in getting inside the China market. It may not be effective, but it is certainly a nice try,” said Zhang Yi, head of mobile-internet consultancy iiMedia Research Group.

“But it will be difficult for Facebook to enter the Chinese market as a whole because it is unlikely China will change its policies and laws any time soon.” The app has icons and features similar to Facebook’s Moments application. Chinese users must register with a local mobile number and the app will sort through the images stored on their phones based on dates.

The app is not linked to Facebook accounts, so users can’t post pictures to their Facebook pages or view content from Facebook through the app.

“If the app can’t cross the Firewall and (can) only be used in China, what’s the use of it,” one person commented on China’s Twitter-like Weibo social media network.

Colorful Balloons was released in May by a company called Youge, according to Apple’s App Store and one of the Android app stores.

A company named Youge Linking Internet Technology was registered in Beijing in March, with a capital of one million yuan (USD 150,000), according to the National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System.

While the app is not mentioned in the system it says the firm’s business covers internet information service and software development.

Shortly after the company was registered, Facebook’s China representative Wang-Li Moser had a meeting with Shanghai’s commerce commission director Shang Yuying in May to talk about setting up a Facebook subsidiary in the city, according to the commission’s website.

First Published: Aug 15, 2017 17:52 IST