Facebook launches Slingshot, but do we really need another photo-sharing app?

With the launch of yet another app, Facebook has made it clear that it wants ALL the things.

It wasn’t that long ago that Mark Zuckerberg’s multi-billion dollar offer to buy Snapchat was soundly rejected. Now, as expected, Facebook’s decided to come out with a Snapchat of its own.

The new app, titled “Slingshot” launched yesterday, and it performs pretty much the same functions as Snapchat, except with an added twist. In order to view images that have been shared with you, you have to share something back. In addition, Facebook is differentiating the app as a way to share images with multiple people at the same time, rather than the one-to-one private dynamic of Snapchat. Here’s a video of what it looks like:

Post by Slingshot.

Speaking to Nellie Bowles at Re/code, Slingshot product manager Will Ruben said, “Hopefully people who don’t share as much will feel comfortable, in this app, sharing.”

Keep in mind Facebook already owns Instagram, and Whatsapp, two huge messaging juggernauts, not to mention its own Facebook Messenger app. Why then is it trying to crowd our app space with yet another product that just does stuff we could do with at least 10 other apps?

Facebook is counting on one single differentiating factor, which is the apps’ “pay-to-play” dynamic. In order to view an image someone has sent you, you have to send them an image back. But here’s where it gets confusing. In order to see that image you have to send an image back. And then the same thing happens on the other end. Repeat ad infinitum, so that the last message you receive will always be unlocked.

To me, this sounds incredibly frustrating. I hate receiving texts that I have to reply to. And the idea of unviewed images sitting on my phone forcing me to take useless pictures just so I can see them sounds infuriating. But to Facebook, this is the key to increased engagement. In a blog post announcing the app, the company wrote

With Slingshot, we 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. This is what Slingshot is all about.

I would argue there’s even more pressure when everyone has to be a creator. But then again, I’m not the coveted teen/tween audience so maybe a youthful member of our readership can spot the benefit of the app. Till then, I’ll happily send my pictures using the simplest messaging app I can find.

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