Slingshot borrows Snapchat's key innovation of ephemeral messaging, allowing users to send photos which time out after being viewed, keeping fun missives away from users' camera rolls (and x-rated texts away from prying eyes).
But the app adds in a few twists of its own. Users have the option of sending an instant photo reply to messages, encouraging whole conversations to play out in the format rather than the disconnected snaps common with Snapchat.
And, perhaps most importantly for Facebook's hopes that the app sees wide adoption, photos received from friends must be unlocked by "slinging" a different photo back to the sender.
"We wanted to build something where everybody is a creator and nobody is just a spectator," say the developers, who are part of Facebook's "Creative Labs" innovation team. "When everyone participates, there’s less pressure, more creativity and even the little things in life can turn into awesome shared experiences. This is what Slingshot is all about."
Users don't need a Facebook account to use the app, and can sign up with just a phone number and their contact list, similar to the Facebook-acquired WhatsApp, although some may be wary of the setting that lets the app "periodically sync" phone contacts with Facebook to easily find people they know. Users can also, of course, connect via their Facebook friends' list.
Slingshot is not Facebook's first attempt at getting some of the Snapchat lucre. Zuckerberg's company tried to buy the LA-based messaging app in 2013, for a reported $3bn, but was turned down. A year earlier, it launched its first Snapchat clone, the ill-received "Poke", which the firm boasted took only 12 days to build.
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