Facebook takes aim at Snapchat with Slingshot; Trade a shot?

Facebook’s messaging app Slingshot was finally released yesterday. The app is similar to competitor Snapchat’s, but with one quirk: You can’t see a message from a friend until you reply back to them.

After Facebook’s rejected bid for Snapchat, Slingshot is the creation that the social media giant is using to position itself in the same category, to provide a fun and transient messaging platform.

Slingshot itself is similar in many ways to Snapchat – log in with your phone number, take and send photos and videos – “shots” – which can be annotated, and set how long they are viewable for and “sling” away. Recipients may choose to swipe away the message without viewing, or, as hoped, they can send a new Shot back to unlock what they’ve just been sent. Friend’s reactions to your shots, however, are always unlocked and ready to view.

However, here’s where the differences between Slingshot and Snapchat begin.

Facebook slingshot

Slingshot has an all-mighty “Select All” feature when choosing which friends to send your shot to. Snapchat users, as myself, have been craving this feature for what seems like an eternity. Snapchat developers claim this is a deliberate move, to enforce the importance of every notification you receive. In essence, this feeds into what makes the core of the two platforms different. Slingshot doesn’t feel like a messaging app – it feels like a stream of content. When you receive Shots from your friends, there isn’t the same urgency as with Snaps to open them. Surely no one expects me to take a Shot of what I’m doing straight away to see their Shot?

Crucially though, Facebook may be using a pay-to-play mechanic to make Slingshot a much used, staple app. The Pareto principle can be applied to social media in that 10% of all users are creators, and 90% are consumers (as addressed in a Journal of Medical Internet Research study); Slingshot seems to be tackling that principle and attempting to make all 100% of users creators.

With the pay-to-play mechanic of Slingshot, Facebook is trying to add a differentiator whilst still targeting social media users who are lured by shiny new platforms, where their parents aren’t users. However, the mechanic also poses a risk of adding barriers to usage. Let’s face it, how many original photos are you willing to share to see others’? What’s to stop me from sending a photo of my keyboard to see someone else’s Shot?

Does all that equate to the fact that this might just be a fad? The next few months will reveal all, but regardless, it’s an admirable attempt to turn lurkers into active participants.

The app is now available in the App Store and on Google Play.