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Banned Facebook promises Chinese devs GLOBAL glory

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Facebook has drilled into China’s burgeoning software development industry to expand its range of apps despite the social network being banned in the country.

David Lim, an engineer in the firm's mobile dev division, told Bloomberg that programmers from the People’s Republic make up about 20 per cent of Facebook’s network in Asia, more than any other country in the region. According to Lim, Facebook moved into the continent by opening offices in Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore and Hyderabad, India.

Although Mark Zuckerberg's reservation is blocked by the Great Firewall of China, it partners with local biz, such as Beijing-based games maker Rekoo.com, to get its foot in the Asian superpower's backdoor. Meanwhile Shanda Games, China’s third-biggest online games firm, is said to be working on titles for Facebook users.

“We now have Chinese language help pages for developers, and we are working on giving them better support,” Lim told the news wire. “Developers in mainland China are important to us.”

Facebook, along with Twitter, YouTube and thousands of other web brands, are off-limits in the country by order of the Party, usually because the sites host content deemed socially, politically or culturally harmful.

That obviously isn’t stopping the firm harvesting talent from the growing app developer community in the country though, and it's a good opportunity for ambitious Chinese devs to reach a wider international audience.

Not that China is any slouch itself in the social space. New research from brand value analysts BV4 rated the People’s Republic second globally with social media brands worth $28bn compared to the first-placed United States with $82bn - and significantly better than Europe in third place with a measly $13bn.

With firms such as Qzone, Sina, Tencent and Renren leading the way in a country with at least 500m web users, there’s certainly a decent sized market for China’s home grown app developers, but one thing they’re not going to get is international reach.

“Because of the limited regional language and culture area it can be assumed that these brands will soon reach a saturation point and will therefore not be able to create a global presence,” BV4’s report said.

Facebook hasn’t ruled out an attempt at cracking the Chinese market, and post IPO it may suddenly find unbearable shareholder pressure on it to do just that. Perhaps for this reason Facebook’s IPO filing last month said it will “continue to evaluate entering China”.

“However, this market has substantial legal and regulatory complexities that have prevented our entry into China to date. If we fail to deploy or manage our operations in international markets successfully, our business may suffer,” the filing added. ®

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