11.06.2014 Facebook’s ‘Slingshot’ at Snapchat: A misfire or surefire hit?

Facebook yesterday “accidentally” launched a new app it has been working on, named ‘Slingshot’. Before swiftly removing it from the App store, Slingshot was launched just long enough for sites like TechCrunch to capture its marketing text and promotional screenshots.

Although seemingly quite similar to Snapchat, Slingshot attempts to modify the highly popular private picture and video messaging format. For instance, recipients can only “unlock” an image sent to them by a friend by, firstly, ‘slinging’ something back in return. This feature has been called ‘gimmicky’ by some critics, but is an obvious attempt by Facebook to arouse the user’s natural curiosity about “unlocking” a picture, and in turn increase the viral impact of Slingshot.

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Regaining the teenage market

In 2013, Facebook reportedly tried to buy Snapchat for $3bn, to no avail. Desperate not to miss out on the private picture messaging market, the only solution for Facebook was to create an app of its own. For the social media savvy youth of today, Facebook simply isn’t holding their interest anymore. Apps like Snapchat and Instagram have been stealing a march on Facebook and Twitter for their simplicity and immediacy. Snapchat has allowed fans exclusive access to their favourite TV programmes and celebrities, for instance MTV’s Geordie Shore, Catfish and The Valleys all have their own accounts. To regain their once loyal teenage market, Facebook are joining the race for dominance of the private messaging market. With over 400 million Snapchats being sent per day, Facebook has had to adapt to take a slice of that action.

Facebook’s evolving mobile strategy

Facebook’s standalone apps such as Messenger and Slingshot have been released to challenge rival services, and is a central part of the company’s mobile strategy. It is no coincidence that Slingshot was revealed just as Paypal’s current president David Marcus joined Mark Zuckerberg in a role created for specifically for him: VP, Messaging Products.

Sling-shot in the dark

This isn’t the first time Facebook has tried to jump on the messaging bandwagon; its first attempt, the Poke app, was recently pulled from the app store. Its failed attempt to buy Snapchat came next. It seems Facebook’s attitude is if you can’t beat ‘em, or buy ‘em, there’s nothing for it but to go back to plan A.

With Slingshot now shrouded in mystery once more, and no formal launch date announced, it remains to be seen how much of a shot across the bows it will prove to be in the battle to beat Snapchat at its own game.