The app uses a mechanic that means photos and videos shared by friends can only be unlocked by “slinging” them back a photo in response. Users can draw or write text over the images, which are deleted once sent.
Users do not need a Facebook account to register and can sign up to Slingshot using their mobile phone number, but can find friends via their contacts book or amongst their Facebook network. It is currently only available in the US on iOS and Android.
Just like Whatsapp, which Facebook acquired for $19bn in February, it is unlikely Facebook will look to turn Slingshot into a revenue-generating app for some time. However, like Whatsapp, brands may see Slingshot as an additional opportunity to share organic marketing content with consumers, as it offers the opportunity to send photos to groups of people at once.
On a blog post, the creators of Slingshot at Facebook’s Creative Labs division say they wanted to build something “where everybody is a creator and nobody is just a spectator. When everyone participates, there’s less pressure, more creativity and even the little things in life can turn into awesome shared experiences”.
The app is similar in user experience to Snapchat, which it was reported rejected a $3bn acquisition bid from Facebook, and smaller service Taptalk.
In November Snapchat’s CEO Evan Spiegel said users were sharing 400 million photos on the app each day, more than the 350 million uploaded daily by Facebook users and the 50 million posted to Facebook-owned Instagram.
In April GlobalWebIndex’s quarterly survey found teenagers were turning away from traditional social networks such as Facebook and Twitter in favour of instant messaging and photo apps like Snapchat, which saw the biggest increase in new user growth, up 60 per cent between the third and fourth quarters of 2013. Facebook saw a 9 per cent drop in users, while Twitter fell 3 per cent.