Facebook takes aim at Snapchat with new Slingshot app

The app is geared toward photo and video sharing with larger groups of people

Facebook's Slingshot app for photo and video sharing.
Facebook's Slingshot app for photo and video sharing.

Facebook has launched a new photo- and video-sharing app called Slingshot that's aimed squarely at popular cool-kid Snapchat.

Slingshot lets users take photos and videos that disappear in the app after they've been viewed and swiped away. Facebook is starting to roll it out Tuesday in the U.S. for iOS and Android.

Slingshot works a bit differently than Snapchat. It lets people send photo and video messages that disappear after a certain period of time. But unlike Snapchat, Slingshot requires the recipient to "sling" something back before they can view what they've been sent.

"With Slingshot, we wanted to build something where everybody is a creator and nobody is just a spectator," Facebook said in its announcement.

"Friends won't be able to see your shot until they sling something back to you. They can then reply with a reaction--or simply swipe your shot away," Facebook says.

That could make Facebook's app more interactive, but it could also turn users off who don't want to send a messages just to see what they've received.

Slingshot users have to provide their mobile number when they sign up for the app. The app checks their phone contacts to see which of their friends are using Slingshot, so they can send messages to them or invite them to join, according to the privacy policy.

Facebook is taking direct aim at Snapchat, even calling the company out in its announcement. "We've enjoyed using Snapchat to send each other ephemeral messages and expect there to be a variety of apps that explore this new way of sharing," it said.

Snapchat has been a bit of an annoyance to Facebook. Last year, the social network reportedly offered US$3 billion to buy Snapchat but it turned them down.

In 2012 Facebook launched Poke, an alternative to Snapchat, but it never took off the way Snapchat did.

Slingshot could provide a fun, new way for Facebook users to message each other. But could also be too little, too late. Time will tell.

Snapchat released a new tool of its own on Tuesday for sharing photos with larger groups of people, geared toward public events. It was unclear of the timing was a coincidence.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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