Facebook on Tuesday unveiled Slingshot, its latest stand-alone app for sharing of photos and brief videos with friends. If that sounds familiar, the social network accidentally released and then pulled its long-rumored Snapchat competitor last week.
Released in the U.S. today for iPhones and Android phones, Slingshot allows people to instantly share “everyday moments” with a group of friends. Users shoot a photo, short video or a selfie, add text or a drawing, and “sling” it to a large group or just a few people.
The novel twist is that you can’t see the image or video until you send one back. Once you receive a shot, you can reply or swipe the image and it disappears.
At the same time, Facebook is trying to distinguish Slingshot from Snapchat, the app that popularized evanescent messaging. It emphasizes that its new app is for one-to-many sharing rather than one-to-one interaction.
“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,” stated a Facebook blog post today.
Slingshot is part of Facebook’s broader strategy to develop a series of single-purpose apps to suit the way people consume content on smartphones. The first app rolled out by the company’s Creative Labs unit, the Paper newsreader app, was released in February. Facebook hasn’t said how many times the app has been downloaded so far.
Apart from external competitors like Snapchat and Taptalk, Slingshot will also have to carve out a niche apart from Facebook’s growing stable of messaging apps including Facebook Messenger, Instagram, its existing photo-sharing app, and WhatsApp, which it acquired in February for $19 billion. Snapchat rebuffed Facebook’s $3 billion takeover offer last year.
“The real story is how fast Facebook is trying to win this messaging app game,” said Eytan Oren, director of partnerships at IPG Media Labs. He suggested in particular that Facebook may be mindful of the prediction that messaging apps will have a larger audience than traditional social networks by the end of 2014.
As with its other apps, Slingshot will not include any advertising at launch, but that wouldn’t necessarily stop brands from trying to market through the app as they do in Snapchat and other messaging apps. Facebook only rolled out paid advertising for Instagram at the end of last year, and has vowed to keep WhatsApp ad-free for the foreseeable future.
“Facebook is always keeping brands in mind, and I’m hopeful there will be opportunities on all of their messaging platforms in the next few years," said, Oren, who co-authored a recent IPG report on messaging apps.