June 17, 2014
Facebook Takes Aim At Failed Snapchat Acquisition With Slingshot
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Social networking giant Facebook took aim at those who don't want their messages to last forever with Slingshot, its own service for sending self-destructing selfies and messages. The new mobile app will be available to Facebook users in the Apple App Store and Android Marketplace beginning on Tuesday in the United States and later in other countries.
This is part of Facebook's strategy to use the mobile arena to increase the reach of the social media service, and potentially siphon some of Snapchat's users – including its youth-oriented market.
Slingshot works by allowing users to instantly share updates with friends, and this includes photos, short videos and of course selfies. The photos/videos, along with text and emoticons, can be sent – or in Slingshot terms, one can "sling" to a friend or friends. To see the image or video, friend(s) will have to send one back to the original sender -- in a tit-for-tat or mutually assured destruction scenario.
These "slings" can be sent even if the sender/receiver doesn't have a Facebook account. Instead, users can sign up for the service via their mobile phone number and connect with friends in the phone's contact list. However, Facebook also ensured that users can sling to Facebook friends as well.
The catch with Slingshot of course is that to see the messages one needs to respond accordingly.
"When everyone participates there’s less pressure, more creativity and even the little things in life can turn into awesome shared experiences," the Sling team posted on its blog on Tuesday. "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. We've enjoyed using Snapchat to send each other ephemeral messages and expect there to be a variety of apps that explore this new way of sharing. With Slingshot, we saw an opportunity to create something new and different: a space where you can share everyday moments with lots of people at once."
Slingshot is the second app from Creative Labs, a new program within the social network that encourages employees to innovate by taking some creative risks and experiment with apps that stand alone from Facebook.
This one is clearly an answer to Facebook's failed attempt to acquire Snapchat but with that twist of encouraging participation.
"It's a way of saying: 'You're my friends. I want to know what you’re doing,'" Joey Flynn, the app's product designer, told The New York Times in an interview.
Slingshot also sends another message: Facebook is going to control the messaging, as it already has its own messenger feature and is in the process of buying WhatsApp, a personal real-time messaging network allowing millions of people around the world to stay connected with their friends and family. The $19 billion deal received the FTC's blessing in April.