Facebook hopes that third time's the charm. After failing to attract Snapchat users with its own version of the app in 2012 -- and after two failed bids to acquire Snapchat -- Facebook today launched Slingshot, its latest rebuttal to the popular ephemeral messaging app.
Like Snapchat, Slingshot lets users share short-lived photos and videos with each other. Facebook's twist: Slingshot requires you to share something before you can view what your friends have sent you.
"With Slingshot, we wanted to build something where everybody is a creator and nobody is just a spectator," Facebook said in a blog post. "When everyone participates, there's less pressure, more creativity, and even the little things in life can turn into awesome shared experiences."
[Facebook's latest privacy changes include some welcome improvements. Read Facebook Privacy: 10 Settings To Check.]
Slingshot is available to iOS and Android users in the US today. When you open the app, it guides you through a few steps to set up your account, which includes choosing a user name, adding your mobile number, and entering a verification code.
Once you set up your account, Slingshot opens your device's camera to let you take a photo or record a video. Buttons on the bottom let you access your device's front- or rear-facing camera and turn the flash on or off. To snap a photo, tap the Shoot button; to record a video, hold the Shoot button down. You can shoot videos up to 15 seconds long.
Like Snapchat, you can add text or doodles to your video or image before you send it to friends. If you add a doodle, music plays in the background, and there doesn't appear to be a setting to turn it off (other than switching your phone to silent mode).
Unlike Snapchat, you can tag your images and videos with a location before you send them. This location will be visible to whomever you share it with; if you don't want Slingshot to collect and store location info, turn it off in your phone's settings.
Another difference from Snapchat: You can save the videos and images you send to friends automatically to your device's camera roll. This option is not turned on by default; to switch it on, visit your Slingshot settings by swiping down in camera mode and tapping your name in the top-left corner.
When you receive a message, you can either swipe a message away to delete it forever or respond by slinging something back -- either a comment or your own image or video.
According to Slingshot's data use policy, once you view and dismiss a shot, you can no longer view it in the app. If you react to a shot before you dismiss it, the original shot will appear with your reaction. Shots and reactions can no longer be seen in the app 30 days after being sent, even if they haven't been viewed or are unlocked and marked to view later.
Slingshot is Facebook's third attempt to woo Snapchat users. In December 2012, Facebook launched Poke, which failed to gain traction. Last week, it quietly removed Poke from app stores. Later, Facebook famously offered $1 billion and $3 billion to acquire Snapchat; both offers were rejected, according to reports.
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