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June 18, 2014

Facebook's Slingshot Looks to Give it Ground in Snapchat's Market


Recently, Facebook released its new Slingshot app, an app that looks familiar in some ways but offers some new twists on the foundation upon which it looks to have been built. The purposes of the apps seem largely comparable, however, and that suggests that Mark Zuckerberg and the crew at Facebook are looking to keep more users under its umbrella and not migrating to other apps, particularly Snapchat.

Slingshot allows users to share whatever's going on in said users' lives at the time, by any of a variety of means. Users can take pictures, shoot video, add text as desired or even draw on the photos and the like, then send it to a previously established group of friends in a process known as “slinging”. Sounds fairly straightforward, but there's a twist; those who want to view the photos and images must then sling a response in order to be able to view the originally-slung item.

This isn't the first time, at last report, that Facebook has tried to compete with Snapchat on its own turf. Facebook previously had Poke, an app regarded as an attempt to do just that. But Poke never really caught on, and many of Facebook's attempts to bring out apps didn't do so well on the wider stage. That may be at least part of the motivation behind Facebook's recent buying spree, which saw the company not only go after Snapchat itself—an offer which didn't take—but land WhatsApp in a $19 billion deal.

Slingshot is the brainchild of Creative Labs, a Facebook initiative similar to one seen at Google known as Google X, in which small labs attempt to pursue disruptive innovations and help infuse the company with some new blood. This is reportedly Creative Labs' second such effort; its first was Paper, a news reader app that doesn't seem to be put much to use, with users reading an average of 80 stories a day, according to word from Facebook. Facebook isn't saying, notably enough, how many downloads Paper had or how many active users Paper has. But Creative Labs has other concepts in the pipeline, based on reports, as several apps are set to be released before the year is out. Reports suggest that the original product designer, Joey Flynn, had the idea as part of a Facebook hackathon staged back in December.

Facebook needs apps to keep users in the fold. The longer an average user stays on the site, the more advertising that user can be exposed to. That in turn boosts Facebook's value to advertisers, which are its primary stock in trade these days. But with users stopping on Facebook for a moment to drop off quick status updates, that reduces the company's value. If it can keep users on the site longer, using various apps to keep users engaged, that's a move that gives Facebook more to work with. Plus, Slingshot is a decent accompaniment for Facebook, as both have something of the social involved.

While users may not throw over Snapchat for Slingshot, Slingshot does have a sufficiently unique concept going to potentially draw some users out of curiosity if absolutely nothing else. Is that going to be enough to keep Facebook a viable entity into the future? Only time will tell on that point, but if Facebook can keep pulling things out of its bag of tricks, it may be able to fend off the growing number of competitors eager for a slice of its market.




Edited by Maurice Nagle


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