Talking tech since 2003

At 31, it’s hard for me to keep up with what all the kids are into. A few weeks ago I visited the apartment of my pals Jim and Julia, friends who happen to be in their early 20s. Julia kept talking about how she was so excited about a Snapchat she’d sent to Jim – but I’d decided last year that Snapchat was definitely not for me. Sending instant, disposable photos and videos to friends…for no reason? I’m similarly baffled at Facebook’s newest app, Slingshot.

The app was released yesterday by Facebook Creative Labs for iPhone (iOS 7) and Android (Jelly Bean and KitKat, so if you have an older phone, you’re SOL). Like Snapchat, users can take a quick photo or video of something using the phone’s rear or front-facing camera, draw on it, then send it off to friends who’ve installed the app. Unlike Snapchat, however, the images can’t be opened until you send something back to them first. Then you can respond to what you see…creating some kind of strange time-lag call and response situation that I’m still not sure I can wrap my brain around. Another feature that’s apparently unique to Slingshot: the “Select All” feature that lets you send stuff to everyone all at once.

According to the developers behind the app, pictured above, “photos and videos that don’t stick around forever allow for sharing that’s more expressive, raw and spontaneous.” I suppose that’s possible. So far, I’ve found it to be just about as uninteresting and disposable as Snapchat was when I tried it last year.

Here’s the rationale behind Slingshot, according to the creative team:

“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.”

Maybe. Maybe that’s true, and people will respond to the app’s requirement that you respond before you can check what people send you. To me, it seems like far more trouble than it’s worth.

But that’s just me, a curmudgeonly old person. Maybe I’m missing something. However, I’m also wondering what Facebook will gain out of Slingshot. When the company bought WhatsApp earlier this year, it seemed clear that having access to that app’s user base and traffic could provide opportunities to bring more people into the Facebook ecosystem, not to mention provide new opportunities for advertising. But Slingshot seems to mostly rely on your existing Facebook friends list. How does the company benefit here?

Maybe if the app takes off that benefit will become clear. As of now, well, I’ll probably be slinging this app right off my phone.

[Slingshot by Facebook Creative Labs]


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