Slingshot: Facebook’s Improved Photo Messaging App


Facebook has been on an expansion mission lately. The company now owns properties like Instagram and Oculus VR, and is developing plenty of its own new apps, too. One of these new apps is called Slingshot, and expands messaging services into the photo world, much like Snapchat and similar apps. The app has had a rocky start but has undergone some changes that warrant a closer look if you are ready to augment your messaging apps.

Facebook Slingshot: App Basics

Slingshot is a photo messaging app, one of the growing crowd of similar apps trying to tap into the social media industry. On the surface the app is pretty simple to use. You open the app and snap a picture with your phone. You can then spend some time customizing the photo with a quick text message or some doodles using the tools that messaging up supplies. Then you fire it off to your friend or friends.

When Slingshot first started out in 2014, it had a very important, secondary feature. Sure, you could send out photo messages to others using the app, but those messages were locked. The only way that your friends could see your pictures was to send a picture to you in return, thus “unlocking” your sent photo. Facebook meant this feature to establish a dialogue between users.

However, this required feature soon came under fire. It seemed nonsensical to be required to send your friend a photo when you couldn’t even see what they were messaging you about. Critics were quick to note that messaging apps were supposed to make communication easier, and Facebook’s app actually made the process more complex instead.

It did not take Facebook long to change its mind about this “send a photo to get a photo” approach. The company soon decided to give users an option about how they wanted to send messages. Photos can now be either locked or unlocked, depending on the point of the conversation.

Slingshot vs. Snapchat

If you are at all familiar with the popular app Snapchat, you may be thinking that Slingshot sounds a lot like Snapchat, and you are absolutely right. At this point, with the unlocking option, there is very little that separates the two services. Snapchat has all the same tools and is used for the same purposes, and both apps are free to download.

This doesn’t mean that the two are exact clones, though. On the Snapchat side you have several advantages: Snapchat remains focused on the concept of privacy and quick, casual snaps, so you can still only watch photos for up to 10 seconds at the most. Additionally, Snapchat already has a fairly significant market share and chances are good that more of your friends use it than any other photo messaging app, at least for now. Slingshot is more focused on permanence.

Facebook’s app also comes with some benefits of its own. Its interface is centered on a collection of recent photos you have received, a little the Facebook news feed but with photos. Also, Slingshot has features like a “send to all friends” option which Snapchat has yet to include. If these features appeal to you more than Snapchat’s greater focus on casual communication, you may prefer Facebook’s app. Also, keep in mind that you can still lock photos for friends, if that option appeals to you.

Other Facebook alternatives

Slingshot is not the only photo messaging app that Facebook currently owns. If you are interested in exploring other options, try out Instagram’s latest app, Bolt. Like Snapchat, Bolt focuses primarily on privacy and automatically erased photos, if you like that aspect of the messaging service. If you want to be a bit more artistic in what content you post, consider instead the service Hyperlapse, which allows you to create time-lapse videos of various activities. You can share these mini movies directly through Instagram if you already have an account.

Photo Credit: Vernon Chan