Facebook hurls stones at Snapchat with Slingshot app

Facebook's new Slingshot app lets users send images and videos to friends, but the recipient can only see the message once he or she sends one in return. 


Facebook's new Slingshot photo and video messaging app is putting a spin on the idea of “give and take.” The mobile app allows users to view incoming messages only after they have sent one in return.

The first thing users may notice about Slingshot is that this app has a powerful, incentivized socialization and sharing prime directive.

When a message comes in, you must send one back in order to unlock the incoming message. Users can tap the unlocked image to react, or swipe it away. Like Snapchat, once swiped, it’s gone.

However, this is not Snapchat.

It’s not even chat, per se, but more like a communication game.

This app is what blind-folded Frisbee must feel like, as things you can’t see come whizzing at you and you have to catch and sling off the disc before taking a peek at what’s going on.

It’s easy to imagine one person sending a friend a photo of an ugly hat, only to unlock a photo of the friend they sent it to wearing that same hat. Awkward!

OK, that’s unlikely. But the fact that the message you are sending back is not related to the message you are receiving, except by coincidence or synchronicity, can be either daunting or exciting, depending on the user’s outlook on virtual life.

This app has a very finished, glossy feel that in many ways is a pleasure to use. It’s easy to doodle on a photo and “Sling” it off to one or many friends.

Users can capture photos and videos, then headline, caption, or decorate then. When ready, people can “sling” them to one or multiple friends.

This can morph into a shot-for-shot Slingfest, filled with enhanced photos or videos packed with captions and drawings.

While it’s easy to imagine users in a rapid-fire social melee, this app also has the potential to frustrate the user via the "pay to play" nature of this new app.

Unlike Snapchat, Slingshot has a "select all" button that lets people send images to everyone on their friends list, but this, too, seems like a double-edged sword. While it might be awesome to spam friends with a photo, there is the inherent danger it could become an overused feature.

Combining “select all” spamming with the “give to get” functionality of this app could leave some users with buyer’s remorse for a free app.

Another result of the need to “unlock” incoming messages is that they may ultimately become a chore to users as they pile up and reminder notifications gnaw away at the fun factor.

On the other hand, there is something very addictive to the idea of developing a social exchange rhythm with groups of friends.

To recall the Frisbee analogy, the game only works if you don’t stand there with your arms folded as incoming discs ping off you and pile up all around.

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