Facebook released Slingshot, a Snapchat-like app whose claim to fame is forcing users to first send a reply message in order to unlock any incoming messages.
Yes, to view a “shot”, you first have to “sling” one.
This is Facebook’s second attempt at a Snapchat competitor (remember Poke?), and Facebook is hoping the focus on reciprocation will remove the tendency for passive lurkers and increase user engagement.
Here’s how you set it up.
First, head over here to download Slingshot for iOS or Android.
When you boot up the app, you’ll be asked to put in your phone number, preferred display name, and your full name (which will be displayed to people you sling).
Slingshot will then walk you through how to unlock new shots. Since it can be tough to find other Slingshot users this early on, you can send your first message to the Slingshot team for practice.
To find other Slingshot users, you can connect to your Facebook friends, send them an invitation over text message, or search for them directly from your phone contacts.
To take a shot, you just tap the “Use” button at the bottom of the screen. Video snippets can be recorded by holding the button down. As with Snapchat, you can overlay text onto your selfies, or use the “Draw” button to add some colourful doodles.
While you can view how many messages are awaiting you, they will be pixelated until you unlock them first (see image above).
Slingshot also includes a “React” feature, which lets you simultaneously view and respond to a message. Testing Slingshot around the office, we noticed that the experience feels noticeably slower than Snapchat, and the introduction of the send-first-to-unlock feature creates an overlap in your picture or video conversations.
“React” is an attempt to speed along conversations and remove some of the friction from the process.
Slingshot works most efficiently when you send shots to multiple people. Doing so unlocks more shots, and Facebook has even included a “Select All” button.
Slingshot is the second release from Facebook’s Creative Labs, the division that created the Paper app for reading news. Just like Paper, Slingshot is well crafted from a design standpoint. And for an app intended to be used on an hourly basis, a keen eye for clever animations can make or break a first impression.
Slingshot doesn’t disappoint, and its animation for when you sling a shot (sorry), is pretty cool. It’s a tiny detail, but one that’s fun to discover for the first time, and it echoes back to the first time you scrolled to the bottom of Snapchat and realised you could launch the Snapchat ghost across your screen.
Slingshot’s send animation pixelates your message and then shoots it away.
Facebook has its work cut out for it with Slingshot. For fans of timed photos, Snapchat already boasts a massive following of active users. The real test will be whether people take to the send-one-to-see-one feature — or view it as a poke-like gimmick.
You can download Slingshot here.
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