If there were any doubt that Facebook will be taking on Snapchat, the public launch and availability of its new Slingshot app and platform should banish all that. But rather than just copy it feature by feature, Facebook is putting in a rather curious twist to the ephemeral messaging trend by focusing on a more social and reciprocal aspect.
The basic premise is the same. You can share, called "slinging" in Slingshot parlance, photos or videos with others and, once it has been viewed, or alternatively, ignored, the message will self-destruct. However, unlike Snapchat, the recipient, or recipients, won't simply be able to view what you shared. They will have to first sling something back at you before they're able to see what you slung. Only then will they be able to react to your sling or sling the photo away.
But wait, there's more! And by "more", we mean more recipients. Facebook isn't limiting Slingshot to 1:1 sharing. Instead, you can share those moments with as many friends as you want. Of course, they all have to first share something back, individually of course, before they can see what you just sent. It's the same process really, but it does take out the tedious work of having to reshare your selfie again and again for each recipient.
Admittedly, Slingshot is an interesting and somewhat refreshing take on the Snapchat phenomenon. It does encourage a more active and more social, and therefore more personal, interaction, though perhaps the ulterior motive for Facebook is to drive as much traffic to their networks as possible. There are, however, two questions that could possibly linger in your mind once you've settled down from excitement. First is whether this system will be feasible in the long run. These days, people, especially the younger generation, share things like they share the air they breathe. Slingshot does encourage more thoughtful and intentful sharing, but it also requires a bit more work, at least for the recipient. But perhaps more importantly for those who have been keeping an eye on Snapchat, the question of security and privacy comes to mind. The dust storm from the WhatsApp acquisition proved how Facebook isn't exactly seen in a trustworthy light, and parallels between the two services will undoubtedly be drawn.
Either way, if you've been taken by this new take on photo and video sharing, Slingshot is now available on Google Play Store for free. Availability is, however, limited only to the US for now and Facebook isn't giving a clue when or if it will have a wider rollout soon.