Facebook takes on Snapchat with Slingshot app
As part of Zuckerberg’s dream to be the epicenter of all smartphone social interactions, Facebook has launched Slingshot for iOS and Android phones after “accidentally” releasing the app in a handful of countries last week. Going head to head with Snapchat, the app lets you instantly share what you are doing with one friend or a group of friends, done by snapping a photo or video, adding text, an emoticon, or drawing, and “slinging” it to your network, never requiring a Facebook account.
What differentiates Slingshot from the Snapchat clones is that friends can’t see the image or video until they send one of their own back to you, and when you receive a pic, you can either swipe the image and it disappears, or you can reply. Consider this Facebook’s answer to Snapchat’s rejecting Facebook’s $3B offer to buy them out, but also recall that Facebook has tried to compete before with the launch of the Poke App which flopped and was removed from the App Store.
Slingshot will operate as a separate startup, marking the second app from Facebook’s “Creative Labs,” wherein team members experiment with developing apps. Facebook hints that more will come from this endeavor of creating standalone apps under the Facebook umbrella.
The idea is that friends share experiences back and forth and creativity is stimulated rather than just thumbing through feeds and browsing without interacting (which Slingshot has a real shot at fixing).
The Verge’s Ellis Hamburger asserts that the app is much more than a Snapchat clone, rather acts as a feed instead of a messenger. Hamburger observes that the app appeals to people that want less formality than Facebook but more formality than Facebook-owned Instagram.
“I think most other people are going to stop dead in their tracks when they find out about Slingshot’s unique requirement: you have to send a photo before you can open the one you’ve received,” Hamburger notes. “This will be especially confusing because the app feels so much like Snapchat that it’s easy to forget how you’re supposed to be using it. Slingshot’s trademark feature will certainly incentivize sharing, but has Facebook considered that you might not always have something to share?”
So will Slingshot succeed?
Slingshot’s functionality is designed well, and the aesthetics are beautiful, but as many startups have proven – just because you build it, doesn’t insure that they will come. If it catches on and the community grows, the app will succeed, but if it goes the way of the Poke app, the design matters not.
Incentivizing sharing gives Slingshot an edge up, because requiring engagement in order to uncover content is not only unique, but taps into gamification without stupid points or levels, rather natural actions. But on the other hand, the reply-to-unlock could be too much effort for some people – why not just text or email “where are we drinking tonight?”
Nicole Lee at Engadget opined, “We’ve only had a brief few minutes with the Slingshot app, but from what we’ve seen of it, it strikes us as a tremendously fun one, with animations and sound effects peppered throughout to make it as playful as possible. It remains to be seen if we can convince our friends to get on board the Slingshot train — one of our coworkers already mentioned that being forced to respond with a photo sounds more like a deterrent than an encouragement.”