Unable to buy Snapchat, Facebook is once again building its own quick-dissolving image app.
The social networking giant has been hard at work for several months creating a Snapchat-clone, according to a report in Sunday’s Financial Times. The newspaper, citing “people familiar with [Facebook’s] plans,” said that the app — codenamed Slingshot — is being designed with a “simple and speedy user interface.”
Slingshot reportedly will enable users to tap a profile picture of the person to whom they want to send a one-time-viewable photo or short video.
This would be at least the third attempt by Facebook to own a successful mobile app with short-lived photo and video communicating.
There were reports last year that Facebook had offered $3 billion to buy Snapchat but was rebuffed. In late 2012, Facebook launched Poke, whose photos and videos similarly evaporated a few seconds after they had been viewed, but the Poke app itself vanished from Apple’s App Store earlier this month after failing to catch on.
“Why would they build something new rather than [build something] into the three popular apps they now own?” asked Ross Rubin, the principal analyst for industry research firm Reticle Research, referring to Facebook-owned WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger. “One potential reason,” he said, “is that each of these apps could be seen as having a separate demographic.” Another reason could be a desire to avoid damaging a base of users for dissolvable communications, should the Snapchat-like functions be added to an app that eventually fails.
Plus, Rubin noted, those three apps are evolving in their own ways, with messaging app WhatsApp “moving into other media” like photos and video, and Instagram launching Instagram Direct. Snapchat itself has been evolving, adding text messaging and video calling earlier this month.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has spoken on more than one occasion of his intent to keep Facebook’s mobile apps separate.
When asked about Slingshot, Facebook told us simply that it “typically doesn’t comment on rumors.”
But the company appears determined to do something, because, Rubin said, “these sharing and messaging apps represent a competitive threat to Facebook Mobile,” particularly among trend-shifting teens.
“[Social networks] tend to have life cycles,” he added, pointing to the decline of Yahoo-acquired Tumblr.