While Facebook has been officially banned in China since 2009, that doesn’t mean they’re totally absent from the nation of 1.4 billion people. According to a recent report from the New York Times, Facebook has launched an app in China called “Colorful Balloons.”
The app works much like the “Moments” feature does in the traditional app, but doesn’t carry any Facebook branding that would almost assuredly mean a rejection in app stores. The app isn’t necessarily built for distribution though, as any shared photos lead to broken links. It appears much more likely that this is just a way for Facebook to get a feel for how the Chinese social media market operates.
Facebook has made no secret about their desire to be a part of the country’s social media landscape. CEO Mark Zuckerburg has made many trips to the nation, even learning Mandarin to facilitate communication. This newest app is a much more covert operation though. And even if it abides by every regulation, there’s a good chance the government won’t think too highly of it if Facebook is indeed involved.
In comments made to the New York Times, Facebook didn’t officially confirm their involvement with the project, but they didn’t deny it either. “We have long said that we are interested in China,” a rep said, “and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country in different ways.”
Worth noting though, is the fact that the executive director of the app’s developer, Zhang Jingmei, has been a part of meetings between Chinese officials and Facebook. So there’s a great chance it’s a Facebook employee (or at least advisor).
It’s not likely that Facebook will have an official door open in China any time soon, but it looks like the company wants to be ready should the opportunity ever arise.