For the second time in two years, Facebook is launching a Snapchat clone. Unlike its first attempt, Poke–which turned out to be a commercial dud before it was quietly killed–the newly re-imagined disappearing photo app uses some interesting incentives to get people to use it.
It is called Slingshot, and it looks like Facebook accidentally published it to the app store late Monday before taking it down. Luckily, we grabbed a screenshot:
Its premise is simple enough. In order to see a photo or video someone has sent you, you have to send them a photo or video in return to unlock it. You can do most of the stuff you do with Snapchat, such as draw or type overlays on your photos. But the general idea is that you’ll be slinging content back and forth, generating velocity that, Facebook hopes, will carve out a space for Slingshot in your phone-checking routine.
Mind you, that momentum has to come from somewhere. A pendulum requires initial force, which, in this case, means early adopters will be charged with the unenviable task of convincing their networks to use Facebook’s version of Snapchat over, say, Snapchat. (Which reportedly turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Mark Zuckerberg himself.) It isn’t a stretch to imagine that there will be lots of lazy, phoned-in material used solely to glimpse an incoming selfie. Users might not like feeling strong-armed.
Building a sizable user base is a tricky task for any latecomer, but especially for Facebook, considering that the “great unbundling” has been anything but. While billion-dollar acquisitions like Instagram and WhatsApp have so far managed to pull their weight, the social network’s in-house product launches have either been flops (like Poke, Home, and maybe even Paper, which we haven’t heard about in a while) or have required some serious in-Facebook juicing (like Messenger, which, frustratingly, you are required to now download separately if you want to read your messages).
And so far, at least, Slingshot is off to a rocky start. A Facebook spokesperson told the Associated Press: “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.”