For those of you who love Snapchat but really wish it made it just a little bit tougher to receive messages, Facebook has launched a new app called Slingshot – the one they accidentally pushed out last week and then quickly pulled.
Like Snapchat, Slingshot allows you to send ephemeral messages to other people. Unlike Snapchat, Slingshot requires that you send a photo or video to whoever sent you a photo or video in order to 'unlock' their 'sling'.
For the record, this means that 1) you receive a picture from a friend and then 2) you must reply to your friend with a photo of your own without knowing the content of their photo. Only then can you 3) reply with something that makes any logical sense.
Let's say your friend Jill slings you a touching photo of the beautiful flower arrangements at her grandmother's funeral. To unlock this photo (of which you have no context), you'll need to do your best not to send back something horribly offensive. Good luck.
You'll also need to refrain from taking a photo or video of anything that even remotely resembles a penis, because Facebook's Slingshot uses pixellation to obscure the unlocked photos.
I'm not sure I'd want to unlock this (it's not a penis, scout's honor):
If Snapchat is for sexting, Slingshot is for just click on it, trust me. It's not a picture of my dick. Promise.
Lest we get wrapped up in penis talk, this is, of course, just one extreme example of an inherent problem with Slingshot's design. It's difficult to encourage user engagement when people have no idea what they're supposed to be responding to. I'm sure, in Facebook's mind, Slingshot will be used more as a here's what I'm doing app where images and videos are shared with multiple friends – rather than a back-and-forth, one-on-one messaging app.
Because if the latter's the case, the send-to-unlock part of this app is much more of an impediment than an asset.