A Chinese app that allows users to access Google, Facebook has disappeared

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In this photo, a logo of the American multinational technology company and the Google search engine is visible on an Android mobile device with the flag of the People’s Republic of China in the background.Budrul Chukrut | Images SOPA | LightRocket | Getty Images

GUANGZHOU, China – An app that briefly allowed Chinese internet users to access foreign websites such as YouTube and Facebook – services that had long been blocked – has now disappeared.The web browser called Tuber was backed by Qihoo 360, a Chinese cybersecurity giant. On October 9, a reporter for the state-backed tabloid Global Times tweeted about its launch.

The so-called Great Chinese Firewall blocks websites like Facebook and its services like Instagram as well as Google and Twitter. The content of Chinese websites is also heavily censored, especially if it is deemed politically sensitive by Beijing.

A virtual private network or VPN is required to access any blocked site in China. But the Tuber app allowed users to access these services without a VPN.

There were, however, a few caveats regarding the Tuber app. Users were required to register with their ID card information and phone number, according to Reuters and TechCrunch, both of which tested the app.

According to TechCrunch, YouTube search results for politically sensitive phrases such as “Tiananmen” and “Xi Jinping” returned no results on the Tuber app.

The Tuber app was available on Huawei’s App Store but was no longer there when CNBC checked on Sunday. It was also not available on the Apple App Store. The app’s website is also not working. It is not known if the government has ordered the app to be withdrawn.

Qihoo 360 did not respond to two requests for comment when contacted by CNBC.

The censored Internet in China leaves an opportunity for “someone to create a filtered version of Google” to compete with local players, according to Rich Bishop, CEO of AppInChina. But he could also face challenges.

“I guess if this were to start to get popular Google itself would probably block this and then you would need all the licenses to run a video hosting site and search engine. This in itself is quite difficult to obtain, ”says Bishop, whose company helps developers publish their applications in China, told CNBC.



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