After recently killing off Poke, its first Snapchat competitor, Facebook is back with a second shot at ephemeral messaging. The new app, called Slingshot, lets you quickly send photos and videos to friends inside a minimal messaging interface. Like Snapchat, you can also caption and draw on photos and video messages. And of course, photos and videos disappear once you've viewed them. The app went live in the App Store today in a few countries, but was then promptly pulled from the store by Facebook.
A Facebook representative confirmed to The Verge that the launch was in fact an accident. "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," said a Facebook spokesperson.
Before Slingshot was pulled, we got a pretty good look at how the app would look and work. The key wrinkle that differentiates Slingshot from Snapchat and other quick-fire photo chat apps like Taptalk, which Facebook was reportedly inspired by, is that before you can "unlock" a friend's message, you must send one back to them. Seemingly, the mechanic is built to encourage users to check in with each other about what they're doing or looking at. While you're viewing a message, you also have the opportunity to tap a React button in order to send your reaction back to the sender.
Slingshot's icon, at left, and Taptalk's icon, at right.
While we don't yet know for sure, Slingshot is likely the second app to come of Facebook's Creative Labs skunkworks division, a group of small teams working on smaller projects within Facebook. The first project to come from Creative Labs was Facebook's news-reading app Paper, which launched a few months ago. Facebook gave up on Poke several months before actually pulling the app from the App Store, sources say, so it would be no surprise if Facebook had been working on Slingshot for quite some time. The app's name, in fact, leaked a few weeks ago. Perhaps after Snapchat reportedly denied Facebook's $3 billion acquisition offer, the company got back to work on a new ephemeral app competitor.