For many years, China blocked Facebook and its apps. Mark Zuckerberg wanted to change that by meeting with Chinese politicians, studying Mandarin and speaking it in public.
Now, it tried a different way to penetrate the market by releasing a stealth app. That is an app that doesn’t carry its name.
This stealth app is a photo-sharing application called Colorful Balloons. It has the same function, look and feel of Moments app. A separate local company released it without a hint that it’s an affiliate of Facebook.
The release is unheard of. But it does show that Facebook is desperate to enter the world’s largest online market.
Facebook is willing to do everything even though it knows that the standards to operate in China are quite different from anywhere else.
China censors the Internet, including news websites. It has strict rules that resulted in the removal of some apps. These rules left big pig players to be on the sidelines.
The country has an audience of over 700 million users. Each year, these users buy $750 billion stuff online.
But they bought it from local tech companies that developed their materials in a way that seems different from Silicon Valley.
Despite its efforts, China still banned Facebook in 2009 and Instagram in 2015. Recently, it partially blocked WhatsApp, Facebook’s messaging app.
Although Facebook gained over two billion users worldwide, Mark wondered where the next billion users of his app would come from. Could it be in China?
What’s the role of Colorful Balloons?
This stealth app can give Facebook an insight on how Chinese users share information with their friends. It also allows the company to see how these users interact with a social media platform.
In a statement, Facebook said that it’s interested in the country and it’s spending a lot of time in understanding it.
But do Internet regulators in China know it?
It’s not yet clear. But this approach might result in Facebook facing another challenge with the government that maintained strict control over international tech companies.
In China, it’s not just a business thing, but it’s politics.
Before the release of the stealth app, Facebook took an approach to court China. In recent years, Mark visited the country many times and became a celebrity there.
In fact, some videos of him talking in Mandarin and a photo of him jogging through Tiananmen Square have gone viral.
Youge Internet Technology released the said app in China based on the Apple’s app store. Its registered address is in eastern Beijing. But the room number in the registration documents presented by the company is unavailable.
The reports stated that the executive director of the local company is Zhang Jingmei, who appeared in a photo of a meeting between Facebook executives and Shanghai government. Her presence might indicate that she could be an adviser or an employee of Facebook.
With its release, Facebook took a huge risk. It appeared that it handed over a product to a local company in China for its release.
It did so without letting the public know that it’s connected to Facebook. The secret release could affect the trust between Facebook and the government in China.