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Facebook gives in, makes Slingshot's unique 'pay to play' mechanic optional

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Facebook today updated its Slingshot chat app to make its bold, "pay to play" mechanic optional. If you're not familiar with the app, until today, Slingshot asked you to send a photo before you could "unlock" the one you just received. Now, after taking a shot, you can choose if it will be "locked" or "unlocked." It's worth noting that your choice sticks, so you don't need to change it every time you take a shot.

facebook slingshot new screens

With the mechanic turned off, Slingshot is effectively a much more straightforward clone of Snapchat — you can send off photos and videos that disappear after friends have seen them. The app's innovative React camera, which lets you quickly reply to a friend's shot, still sets the app apart from Snapchat and other apps, but, without its unique sharing mechanic, the app doesn't feel like it's meant for anything.

Since launching in the App Store in June, the app hasn't fared well, and has hovered near 400th place in the App Store's Photo and Video category. Slingshot didn't need to succeed — it's an experiment borne of Facebook's Creative Labs skunkworks division — but with today's update, Facebook seems to be saying that this experiment has failed. By removing the app's trademark mechanic, however, Facebook is giving Slingshot one last shot at hitting it big. The app does arguably work better than Snapchat at sending quick photos and videos, but snaps are no longer Snapchat's most popular feature anyway.