Facebook discretely fields China photo-sharing app

By AFP
Published: August 12, 2017
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Facebook chief and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has made high-profile visits to China. PHOTO COURTESY: MARK ZUCKERBERG/FACEBOOK

Facebook chief and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has made high-profile visits to China. PHOTO COURTESY: MARK ZUCKERBERG/FACEBOOK

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook’s interest in China has led it to discretely create a photo-sharing application released there without the social network’s brand being attached.

“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 Friday in an email response to an AFP inquiry.

“Our focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform.”

China’s web users fear losing tools to bypass ‘Great Firewall’

A source close to the matter confirmed a New York Times report on Friday that Facebook took the unusual step of creating an app called Colorful Balloons and releasing it through a local company with no hint that the social network was involved.

The Colorful Balloons app (left) and Moments (right). PHOTO COURTESY: THE NEW YORK TIMES

Colorful Balloons has features similar to Facebook’s Moments application.

Facebook has long been keen to find a way into mainland China, where the social network has been banned since 2009.

China orders tech firms to ramp up censorship

Google, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook are among Silicon Valley stars not allowed to operate on China’s tightly controlled internet.

Facebook chief and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has made high-profile visits to China and met with political leaders there, and is even studying Mandarin.

The Colorful Balloons app (left) and Moments (right). PHOTO COURTESY: THE NEW YORK TIMES

Colorful Balloons was released early this year through a separate Chinese company, according to the New York Times. It quoted someone close to the matter who did not want to be identified, citing the political sensitivity of the situation.

Facebook is interested in learning how apps win fans in China, without having a prominent company name associated with it. This could help explain the quiet approach.

Having a company in China distribute the application can be more efficient due to local business connections and familiarity with local rules.

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