Facebook sneaks into China with photo sharing app

Image Schiefelbein  AP  REX  Shutterstock

Image Schiefelbein AP REX Shutterstock

The app, which is created 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.

App for sharing photos entitled Colorful Balloons for functions and appearance very similar to another company's product Facebook - Moments.

The secretive approach of launching the app could cause additional difficulties for Facebook with the government of China that maintains strict oversight as well as control over tech companies outside China. Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has made repeated attempts to woo Chinese authorities, learning Mandarin and touting a book by President Xi Jinping.

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The stealthy and anonymous release of an app by a major foreign technology company in China is unprecedented.

Facebook has been officially blocked in China since 2009, and parts of WhatsApp's service were recently blocked within the country's borders.

"We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country in different ways".

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Internet censorship in China has left big companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook out of the enormously large Chinese market that has an audience of over 700 million users on internet. It is registered to an address in eastern Beijing, yet 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 Chinese app even uses the messaging platform WeChat for connecting users in place of Facebook's network.

It's not clear if China's internet regulators are aware of Colorful Balloons' connection to Facebook. Apple was required to remove all its VPN apps from its China based App Store.

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