Here we go again: If you thought Facebook had given up on trying to take Snapchat down, the joke is on you. The network released a new app Tuesday that makes disappearing messages the star of the show.
Slingshot is an iOS and Android messaging app that lets you send your friends an ephemeral photo or video. (The iOS version is live, while the Android version rolls out later today.) The app packs in all the usual standard messaging features, like options to overlay text or doodles. But there's a catch: The messages you receive show up distorted and pixelated. You can't actually see the photo or video til you "sling" a message back. It seems like Slingshot's process will make conversing pretty difficult (how do you respond to a message you haven't seen?). Once you're done reading a message, you can send an instant reaction shot or just swipe it away and it's gone forever.
Slingshot's approach is pretty novel, but Facebook's last poke at Snapchat, the aptly named Poke, was a complete failure. The network yanked the app after little more than a year. Poke was basically a clone of Snapchat, so there was really no incentive to switch over, but it's unclear if Slingshot's calling card will appeal to anyone.
Slingshot is Facebook's second project from Creative Labs, the team it spawned to develop outside-the-box apps separate from the main News Feed. The group's first project, a social newsreader called Paper, hasn't exactly taken off, but the app does have its fans (I count myself among them).
In the few minutes I've been using Slingshot, it seems like a fairly standard messaging app that doesn't feel at all like Facebook (or Paper, for that matter). As for why Facebook needs a trio of messaging apps in its back pocket — Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp round out the group — well...maybe a group of messaging apps will finally crowd out Snapchat.
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