For many of us Facebook is primarily a messaging service. We use it more to communicate with our friends, than we do for the news feed, or to post status updates. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise, that Facebook is worried that it will lose users if someone makes a better platform for social communication.
Indeed their worries were well-founded, somebody did create a better platform: WhatsApp. Now 19 billion dollars later, WhatsApp is now owned by Facebook, nullifying this threat.
Facebook is left with just one option, copy them, then try and beat them at their own game.
But there is one other company which has Facebook worried - Snapchat. It has been reported that Facebook even tried to repeat the same strategy it did with WhatsApp, allegedly offering $3 billion for Snapchat. This offer was declined, putting Facebook on the back foot. Meanwhile Snapchat, and other ‘direct messaging’ apps continued to rapidly expand the number of users, while also adding new features.
So Facebook is left with just one final option, copy them, and then try and beat them at their own game.
This is where ‘Slingshot’ comes in. The second standalone app created by Facebook is indeed a clone of Snapchat. While we still haven’t had the opportunity to use the app, we now know a lot more about the it, thanks to an embarrassing mistake by Facebook. The company accidentally released the app to the iTunes app store in several countries, before promptly pulling it again several hours later.
A spokesperson from the company explained to Inside Facebook:
“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.”
From this accidental release of the app, and its accompanying description, we now know a few facts about Slingshot. Firstly, it will have all but the most relevant features of Snapchat: ephemeral direct messages, filters, and the ability to annotate messages. In addition, users will be able to ‘sling’ messages to each other, but the receiver can only access the message once that have ‘slung’ a message back.
The full app store description is as follows:
“Slingshot lets you quickly share moments—little and big—with all your friends. Shoot a photo or video of what you’re up to and sling it to a bunch of people. They won’t be able to see your shot until they sling something back. Tap on a shot to react, or simply swipe it away.
• Stay in touch: Capture photos and videos of moments you want to share with friends
• Go shot for shot: To unlock new shots, first you have to sling something back
• Enjoy it while it lasts: Once you swipe a shot away, it’ll no longer be viewable
• Send a quick reply: After unlocking a shot, respond with your reaction
• Get creative: Express yourself with captions and drawings
• Look when you want: View unlocked shots later if you’re busy”
Regardless of the date, it is clear that the imminent release of this app proves that Facebook is running scared. It recognises that the direct message of Snapchat represents a compelling alternative to Facebook’s judgemental and very public news feed sharing. The company is already slowly losing relevance to Google, Apple and Microsoft when it comes to interaction with online content, and should it lose its number 1 messaging role, then it will be effectively dead in water. Quite simply, Slingshot is the app which must succeed for Facebook, should it want to be a permanent online fixture into the long-term future.