It appears that Facebook isn’t really laying down and giving up the ephemeral messaging game to Snapchat after all. A report from TechCrunch uncovered an app that has rolled out to select markets (not the United States), ostensibly as a successor to previous ephemeral messaging app Poke. The new app, called Slingshot, allows users to quickly take, send, and react to photos and video.
According to the app’s iTunes page, Slingshot allows users to augment photos and videos with drawings and text — very close to Snapchat’s features. However, it has a little twist: in order for users to see the photos and videos friends have taken, they must “sling” out a photo or video themselves first. Users can then tap on shots they receive to “react” immediately with a photo or video, or swipe it away to trash it.
It’s not uncommon for Facebook to roll out or test a feature or app to select countries, particularly in places like New Zealand, where Slingshot is now available. However, if it hits the U.S., it’s clear that the social media company isn’t going to allow the ephemeral trend to escape its grasp entirely.
With Slingshot, Facebook would have a bounty of communications apps that roughly cover every mode of communication people are making on mobile today — especially if you count the messaging capabilities in Instagram. But competition is stiff: Pew Research estimated back in October that SnapChat could have up to 26 million users and that number has likely only grown since. Facebook faces an uphill battle to take on the booming ephemeral trend, and is entering the fray rather late.
Update: A Facebook spokesperson told me that the release of Slingshot was unintentional.
“Earlier today, we accidentally released a version of Slingshot, a new app we’re working on. With Slingshot, you’ll be able to share everyday moments with lots of people at once. It’ll be ready soon and we’re excited for you to try it out.”