Facebook Launches Slingshot – A One-To-Many Media Messaging App

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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The new app borrows heavily from Snapchat, but also introduces some original features

Facebook has launched a mobile messaging application called Slingshot, which enables users to exchange pictures and videos as well as post instant ‘reaction shots’.

The app is widely seen as an attempt to court the audience of Snapchat, a similar service which the social network reportedly attempted to acquire last year for $3 billion.

Slingshot was meant to be a surprise, but information about the app was accidentally leaked on the iTunes app store last week.

“With Slingshot, we wanted to build something where everybody is a creator and nobody is just a spectator. When everyone participates, there’s less pressure, more creativity and even the little things in life can turn into awesome shared experiences,” says a post on the Slingshot blog.

The app is available on Android and iOS, but is currently limited to mobile device owners living in the US. There is no information on when it is coming to Europe.

Tit for tat

Slingshot is the second project developed at Facebook’s Creative Labs – it follows Facebook Paper, launched earlier this year.

The new mobile app is all about exchange: users can only unlock received messages by ‘slinging’ their own communication at the sender. Just like in Snapchat, all messages are deleted after being sent.

slingshot1Slingshot also includes previously unseen features – for example, users can broadcast the same message to all of their contacts simultaneously, a method of communication that sets it apart from the competition and is actively encouraged by Facebook.

Slingshot will remain separate from Facebook’s social network – users don’t need any kind of account to use it. Instead, the app will search their phone contact list to find other Slingshot users.

Over the past several years, Facebook has been involved in an arms race, building new features and applications to enrich the mobile messaging experience and fight off competitors like Viber or Skype. It recently paid $19 billion (£11.4bn) for one such competitor, WhatsApp, which also remains a separate business.

At the same time, the social network continues the development of its own mobile messaging application – in April, it removed the ability to send instant messages through the main Facebook app, prompting users to install Facebook Messenger for these purposes.

The social network’s failed experiments include the image messaging app Poke, which was meant to be a direct Snapchat competitor, allowing users to send media messages which would self-destruct after 10 seconds. However, the app, which was only available on iOS, never caught on and was quietly axed last month.

Facebook recently appointed former PayPal president David Markus as the vice president of messaging products.

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