It's no secret how badly Facebook wants to take on the Chinese market.
But that's much to the dismay of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg who — despite having learned Mandarin and having made several trips there to negotiate — has seen no success in bringing its cache of marquee apps — Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and others — to China, seen as tightly controlled and often censored.
Facebook is blocked in China, and so are many other U.S. apps. But according to The New York Times, Facebook might have found a subtle workaround to penetrating the country.
Facebook Enters China With Colorful Balloons, Sort Of
The report claims Facebook might be trying a new way to get into China: by giving the greenlight for a local company to release a new app that doesn't share Facebook's name. It's called Colorful Balloons, and it looks and functions like Facebook's Moments app.
Facebook approved the release in May. Released by a company named Youge Internet Technology, Colorful Balloons has not been reported in any form since The Times picked it up, and there's fear that China might now take notice and implement appropriate action. It was released through a separate company without any hint of Facebook's affiliation.
The release of such an app, that is, one from a company with ties to Facebook, has never happened before, save for WhatsApp, which China recently put an end to. The Times says it illustrates the "desperation" of tech firms as they attempt — exhaustively — to break into China's online market.
Facebook Is Still Interested In China Despite Hurdles
"We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country in different ways," a spokesperson for Facebook told Reuters. "Our focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform."
Facebook has repeatedly reiterated its plans to bring Facebook to China but has remained oddly silent about specific plans to achieve such ambitions. Facebook, like many U.S. tech firms, is facing a seemingly insurmountable struggle, what with China's strict censorship laws. More than anything, the release of Colorful Balloons shows Facebook's intention to enter that market remains ongoing despite the huge hurdles.
Content Censorship Tool
One solution Facebook has created, according to reports, is a tool that could restrict content in certain online markets as a way to comply with China's social norms or follow its government's censorship guidelines. How the release of Colorful Balloons impacts Facebook's attempt to capture the Chinese market remains to be seen.