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Facebook shuts down its experimental Creative Labs division

Social apps including Slingshot, Rooms, and Riff are removed from the app stores

Since it was founded two years ago, Creative Labs has been one of the most interesting parts of Facebook. Built as a startup within the company, it built a series of experimental social apps designed to test new interfaces and interaction patterns. But the experiments have come to an end: Facebook said today that the division has been shuttered. As a result, the division's apps are being discontinued. "Since their launches, we've incorporated elements of Slingshot, Riff and Rooms into the Facebook for iOS and Android apps," a Facebook spokeswoman told The Verge. "We haven't updated these apps in some time and we've decided to officially end support by removing them from the App Store and Google Play."

At its best, as with the alternative News Feed browser Paper, Creative Labs pushed the boundaries of Facebook's design forward. More often, though, its apps clumsily aped features from other companies, notably Snapchat. Slingshot was an effort to replicate Snapchat's success with ephemeral messaging; Riffs was a take on Snapchat's popular Stories feature. Year-old Rooms was more interesting: it tried to reimagine web forums for mobile devices. But joining a forum bizarrely required taking screenshots of QR codes; it never gained any traction, and creator Josh Miller left to join the White House as director of product in September.

Facebook says no one was laid off as part of the division's shutdown. And while it doesn't bode well for Paper, the app is still in the App Store. It hasn't been updated since March, though. And if today's news is any indication, updates may not be coming at all. Still, the company says it will continue to allow small teams to work on standalone apps, noting it continues to support efforts like Hyperlapse and Layout for Instagram. In the meantime, Slingshot and Riff will continue to work for those who have already downloaded them.

Update, 3:24 p.m.: This article has been updated to include comment from Facebook.