Facebook has been banned in China for a while, but that doesn’t mean the company has given up on the country. The social media platform secretly launched a photo-sharing app in China called Colorful Balloons, which doesn’t carry Facebook’s name, the New York Times reported Friday.
Colorful Balloons, which was approved by the company in May, resembles Facebook’s Moments app. The new app is a bit different from Moments, which connects users through Facebook. Instead, Colorful Balloons links to those who have a WeChat account, China’s biggest social platform. The app collates pictures from a mobile device’s photo albums and allows users to share them with a QR code. 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.
To conceal Facebook’s tracks, the app was released by a separate local company, called Youge Internet Technology, registered in eastern Beijing, leaving no traces of the social media platform’s link to it.
The release of Colorful Balloons shows Facebook, like other tech companies, is desperate to tap into the Chinese market. China has locked out big tech giants, including Google, from its 700 million internet users. Facebook recently saw it app WhatsApp shutdown in China this summer.
In a statement to the Times, Facebook did not confirm or deny its involvement with Colorful Balloons.
“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.
It’s unclear whether Chinese regulators were aware of the app, and it could muddy up the waters even further between tech companies and the country.
This isn’t the only time Facebook has tried to tap into the Chinese market. Last year, the Times reported the company had developed a censorship tool to get back into the country by suppressing posts from appearing in people’s news feeds in certain geographic areas.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been courting China through visits to the country, meetings with Chinese internet executives and President Xi Jinping, even with learning Mandarin.