Facebook’s newest iOS and Android app Slingshot, wants to take on Snapchat at its own game.
Facebook’s mobile endeavours have been pretty diverse. Offerings like Camera wanted to give you the power of Instagram, but after indifference to the new app, Facebook ended up buying Instagram instead. Now the FB Creative Labs team is at it again and the company’s latest app, Slingshot has just rolled out internationally.
The most obvious comparison here is against destructive messaging app Snapchat, which Facebook famously tried to purchase earlier this year for $3 billion. Slingshot does however come with a few key differences.
Slingshot is designed to get a conversation started, in that you have to reply to any ‘slings’ you receive before you can open them, until that point they remain ‘locked’. This promotion of a give and take experience does make sense, in theory.
Facebook says that, “there ends up being way less pressure and way more creativity” between users, however some may find it frustrating if they have nothing to send; snapping un-annotated photos of the ceiling back to their friends just to see the messages they’ve received.
When you first open up the app, you have to register your phone number for authentication purposes, similar to WhatsApp’s initial setup. Then it’s a case of adding a username and your real name, the latter only being visible to those who’ve unlocked your slings.
The main interface is simple to use, giving you a single button for taking stills (long-pressing records video) and then there are tools for adding captions or doodling atop your soon-to-be sling. Once you’re happy with your creation, you can fire it off to as many contacts as you like, with the option to add friends already using Slingshot from your address book or by scanning your Facebook friends. At this early stage in the game, despite an extensive contacts list, I only found one other user.
If you receive a sling that you enjoy you can tap to record or snap your reaction in a sort of split-screen layout and send that back to your friend. Again, in theory, a nice idea that keeps conversation flowing, but the locked slings can bring those conversations to a screeching halt from time to time.
Should Snapchat be worried? At this stage in the game, no. Facebook has a vast user-base to entice onto Slingshot, but until it has amassed a wealth of connected ‘slingers’ chances are this new app won’t change the game, not yet anyway.