Facebook is even more desperate to have a presence in China than we thought.
The social network has been secretly testing a photo sharing app in the country, according to a new report in The New York Times.
The app, reportedly called “Colorful Balloons” is apparently a Chinese version of Facebook’s photo-sharing app, Moments. The app, first released in the U.S. in 2014, allows friends to make group albums to privately share photos from their phone.
Unlike the U.S version, which requires a Facebook account, Colorful Balloons uses WeChat the messaging app that’s nearly universal in China. Users can also share photos via QR codes, which are extremely common in the country.
Facebook has reportedly gone to great lengths to disguise that they’re the ones truly behind the service, The New York Times reports. The app was reportedly published by a company named “Youge Internet Technology” in China’s App Store and early users reportedly aren’t able to easily share the app with outsiders.
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 Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “Our focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform.
While Mark Zuckerberg and other execs have maintained for years that they have every intention of bringing Facebook to China, they have adamantly refused every opportunity to publicly discuss how they would do so. Like many other major U.S. tech companies, China’s strict censorship laws have prevented the social network from having a presence in the country.
That the company could now be testing an app disguised as a service from a local company is not just unheard of it’s incredibly ballsy.
It’s no secret that Mark Zuckerberg has been desperately courting China for years. He’s made multiple trips to the country and learned to speak Mandarin. But any inroads made by such efforts could be negated if the Chinese government learns Facebook secretly pushed an app into the country anyway.
UPDATE: Aug. 11, 2017, 2:56 p.m. PDT Updated with Facebook’s statement.