Facebook has launched another attempt to catch the growing popularity of the app Snapchat. Facebook’s attempt is an app called Slingshot. The new app, designed for briefly sharing photos and videos, has a twist: people must share first, before they can view images from others.
The social-networking giant launched their new Slingshot app Tuesday. The app allows people to share short-lived photos and videos with one another. This concept encourages people to share photos and videos that are less carefully edited by promising they’ll be deleted shortly after they’ve been seen.
Facebook has added their own spin to the app. Slingshot requires the user to share a photo or video before they are allowed to view any images from others. Facebook’s hopes are that this twist-- along with a focus on sending to groups, rather than to individual -- will broaden Slingshot’s appeal.
Joey Flynn, a product designer on the Slingshot project says that the dynamic of requiring users to share something each time they want to see everything their friends have sent since they last used the app has the potential to encourage people to upload more often and to be more creative about what they share.
This is not Facebook’s first shot at trying to gain some of the hype of other similar apps. In 2012 Facebook released an app called Poke, which used an early messaging feature in Facebook. Poke was much similar to Snapchat. Poke allowed users to choose whether they wanted their image to self-destruct after 1, 3, 5, or 10 seconds. The Poke app was removed by Facebook last month.
Slingshot takes a different path than the Poke app. The photos and videos sent on Slingshot will still self-destruct after they have been viewed, but the receiver of the photo or video will be able to look at a photo, or watch a video on loop, for as long as they wish before they get rid of it with the flick of a finger.
When the Slingshot app first opens, the user is presented with a simple camera app that includes the ability to turn the flash on and off, a “selfies” feature which will switch the camera to the phone’s front facing camera, and a list at the top showing how many images from other Slingshot users are waiting for them. After the user takes a photo or selfie, they can then use options to add to their production such as the ability to add text, icons, or even drawings to help emphasize a point or to add some silliness to their photo.
After making sure that the picture is perfect, the user then chooses which friends they would like to send the image to. They can choose to send it to all, a group, or just a single friend. After their creation is uploaded, they can then see a feed of their friend’s shots. The user can then reply to an image if they feel inclined to do so. The reply is then sent directly to the friend and doesn’t require the user to share something new first.
Slingshot isn’t being marketed with the company’s branding, which is unusual for an app built by Facebook. Other than the ability to connect with friends from the social network on Slingshot’s service, none of the service is tied directly to Facebook—another unusual move by the company. Facebook said the list of friends that a user can choose form is primarily built from phone numbers in the user’s phone address book.
Not to be outdone, Snapchat announced new features for its own app Tuesday, which allows groups of users in the same location to collect their photos and videos and share them as a part of the larger event.
Facebook’s expectations with Slingshot are manageable. Facebook doesn’t expect that all of its billions of users to immediately jump on board the Slingshot app. Facebook instead said that it expects the app to grow slowly and plans to tweak it along the way.
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