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A Stealth App Is The Test Material For Facebook For China’s Market

A Stealth App Is The Test Material For Facebook For China’s Market
It has been years that Facebook and many of its apps have been blocked in China.
Now by authorizing the release of a new app there that does not carry the Facebook name, the social network is trying a different way into China.
According to a person with knowledge of the company's plans, who declined to be named because the information is politically sensitive, Facebook approved the May debut of a photo-sharing app, called Colorful Balloons, in China. The look, function and feel of Facebook's Moments app is shared by the app which has not previously been reported. It was released without any hint that the social network is affiliated with it through a separate local company.
As global tech companies try to break into the world's largest online market in China, the desperation and frustration of the companies is shown by the stealthy and anonymous release of an app by a major foreign technology company in China. The assumptions that their increasing acceptance of the idea that standards for operating in China are different from elsewhere and the lengths they are willing to go are underscored by the event.
Big players like Facebook and Google have been on the sidelines of a major boom in China due to its internet censorship. Local tech companies that have developed their own way of doing business that can seem exotic to Silicon Valley, serves an audience of more than 700 million internet users who buy $750 billion of stuff online a year.
Last month, Facebook’s messaging app WhatsApp was partially blocked in China while its photo-sharing app Instagram was banned in 2014 and the social network itself was banned in China in 2009. Mr. Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder and chief executive, has often asked where its next billion users will come from even while the company has more than two billion users around the world.
"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 statement.
Whether China's various internet regulators were aware of the app's existence is still unclear. With a Chinese government that has maintained strict oversight and control over foreign tech companies, the under-the-table approach could cause Facebook new difficulties.
"It's not a mere business thing," said Teng Bingsheng, a professor of strategic management at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business. "It's politics."
There were no comments from the Cyberspace Administration of China.
Facebook had taken an unusually high-profile approach to courting China before the release of Colorful Balloons.
Mr. Zuckerberg had become something of a celebrity there and had paid a series of visits to the country in recent years.
But the opposite approach — one that is low profile is represented by Colorful Balloons.
According to a post in Apple's app store, the app was released in China by a company called Youge Internet Technology. 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 even though it is registered to an address in eastern Beijing.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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