Facebook has been secretly testing an app in China called Colorful Balloons

Facebook has been secretly testing an app in China called Colorful Balloons

Facebook confirmed Saturday that it launched the app. The release of the app could give Facebook a better understanding of the social media habits of China's 700 million internet users. It's called Colorful Balloons, and it looks and functions like Facebook's Moments app. It was released through a separate company without any hint of Facebook's affiliation. The under-the-table approach could cause Facebook new difficulties with Chinese government that has maintained strict oversight and control over foreign tech companies.

China is the largest online market in the works.

Last month, in a crackdown on Internet services by the government, Apple had removed all major VPN apps from the App Store in China.

And local companies have already stepped in to fill the social media void.

It was unclear if China's various internet regulators were aware of the app's existence, the Times said.

The app has a few distinct features that cater to the Chinese market.

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"It's not a mere business thing", said Teng Bingsheng, a professor of strategic management at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business. But it has reportedly found a workaround in the form of Colorful Balloons.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has spent years courting the potentially lucrative Chinese market: He's given a talk in Mandarin and gone jogging in Tiananmen Square.

Instead, a company called "Youge LLC" is credited as the creator.

In a statement to the Times, Facebook doesn't explicitly confirm or deny its involvement in Colorful Balloons. In the rest of the world, the company's Moments app connects users through Facebook. The app collates pictures from a mobile device's photo albums and allows users to share them with a QR code.

While photos can be shared, Facebook appears to have taken steps to ensure the app could not spread widely. But the Facebook name is nowhere to be seen.

Facebook approved the release in May.

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