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Facebook takes another swipe at Snapchat with slingshot

Matt Kapko | June 20, 2014
Facebook is taking another run at Snapchat. This time with an app that works more like a boomerang than a slingshot. The app's unique features and silly sounds make for a playful experience, but's Matt Kapko writes it's also an awkward, unnatural and never-ending way to live life in the moment.

Facebook's latest attempt to beat Snapchat at its own game feels more like a content-sharing boomerang than a slingshot, but so be it. Maybe Slingshot is a snappier way to get its point across and attract new users in the process.

Will Facebook's Slingshot challenge Snapchat and help make the social network cool with a younger audience again?
For years Facebook has been trying and failing to copy Snapchat's ephemeral messaging app. Slingshot is the company's latest shot across the bow.

The first thing you'll notice about Slingshot is that Facebook's involvement is hard to find. There's not even an option to login with Facebook. You have to supply your phone number and create a username to get started.

The app is purposefully stripped down to the bare essentials, letting you send photos and 15-second videos to one friend or many. There is one catch, however. You must reciprocate before you can view any content shared with you.

"With Slingshot, we wanted to build something where everybody is a creator and nobody is just a spectator," the Slingshot team explains in a blog post. "When everyone participates, there's less pressure, more creativity and even the little things in life can turn into awesome shared experiences... Photos and videos that don't stick around forever allow for sharing that's more expressive, raw and spontaneous. We can connect the same way we like to live: in the moment."

A Disappearing Act With a Catch
Photos and videos shared on Slingshot won't automatically disappear within a matter of seconds. Content can be revisited until the recipient or sender deletes the feed. Facebook will also eventually delete the photo or video from its servers, but not until it remains unviewed for 30 days. Unlike Snapchat, users are not notified if a recipient saves a screenshot of your photo or video, however.

Every action within the app comes with some form of sonic feedback. Cartoon-like noises and swooshes are followed by a Muzak-inspired track that plays when you open the drawing tool. The entire user experience was built with noticeable cues from modern design. Swipes replace most of the actions delivered by buttons and links in years past. There's little if any need to swipe out of the main screen unless you want to add or invite new people.

Slingshot will scan your phone contacts and Facebook account (with permission) to find friends, but the app also lets you send a sling to anyone by username. Once your account is established the app will open to the camera view with small counter at the top indicating how many messages you could view by replying. If no slings are pending, a short message appears instead encouraging you to "take a shot!"


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