Facebook Readies Snapchat Challenger, But Debuts Slingshot Prematurely

For a fleeting moment this week, the world got a peek at Facebook’s latest attempt to take on Snapchat, and other short-run messaging platforms. A new app named Slingshot briefly appeared on Apple’s App Store on Monday.

Facebook said the release was premature. "Earlier today, we accidentally released a version of Slingshot, a new app we’re working on," the social giant stated.

No word on when Slingshot will make its official debut, but its mission is clear: preventing Snapchat and other messaging apps from continuing to cut into Facebook’s market share. 

Like Snapchat, Slingshot will allow users to add art to their photo and video messages. Setting Facebook’s forthcoming service apart, message recipients will first need to respond with a message of their own before viewing the original correspondence.

Slingshot is not Facebook’s first foray into ephemeral messaging. An earlier app named Poke failed to take off with users, and was shuttered last month. The company also unsuccessfully tried to buy Snapchat for about $3 billion, late last year.

Web watchers have been on the lookout for Facebook’s next Snapchat challenger since the Financial Times reported its existence last month. Seeking its own share of the disappearing message space, Yahoo recently acquired the app Blink.

Taking on Facebook more directly, Snapchat recently rolled out a text- and video-messaging feature named Chat. As part of a broader shift away from ephemeral exchanges, the start-up debuted Snapchat Stories, earlier this year -- a feature that lets users save and share photos for up to 24 hours.

As Facebook’s $19 billion WhatsApp deal made outrageously clear, mobile messaging is big business -- and increasingly key to reaching consumers.

Yet as a recent white paper from IPG Media Lab showed, the messaging space is beyond cramped. Along with Facebook Messenger -- in which the social giant continues to invest -- services Kik Messenger, WeChat, Line and Tango are all competing for user affections.

As various surveys suggest, however, the pool of potential users continues to grow -- and especially among young users who are spending more of their time on social apps like Instagram, Snapchat and Vine.

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