In a bid to explore the high-potential Chinese online market, Facebook has authorised the release of a new app here that does not carry its name.
The app called “Colorful Balloons” is a photo-sharing app that shares the look, function and feel of Facebook’s Moments app, The New York Times reported on Saturday.
The app, which is designed to collate photos from a smartphone’s photo albums and then share them, was released by a local company called Youge Internet Technology, which is registered to an address in eastern Beijing, without any hint of affiliation with Facebook.
However, the room number listed in company registration documents could not be found amid a series of shabby, small offices on the building’s fourth floor.
The director of the company, a woman named Zhang Jingmei, appeared in a photo of a meeting between Facebook and the Shanghai government, sitting next to Facebook executive Wang-Li Moser, indicating she is likely associated with the company, the report added.
Neither Facebook nor Jingmei has issued any official statement regarding their partnership.
It is unclear whether China’s internet regulators were aware of the app’s existence. The under-the-table approach could cause Facebook new difficulties with Chinese government that has maintained strict oversight and control over foreign tech companies.
Facebook was banned in China in 2009, followed by its photo-sharing app Instagram in 2014 and its messaging app WhatsApp was partially blocked last month.
Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has made a big point of meeting with Chinese politicians, studying Communist Party propaganda, Mandarin and even speaking it in public.
China’s internet censorship has left big players like Facebook, Apple and Google out of the huge Chinese market with an audience of more than 700 million internet users.
Last month, in a crackdown on Internet services by the government, Apple had removed all major VPN apps from the App Store in China.