A Beginner’s Guide to Slingshot, Facebook’s Participatory Photo Messaging App
On Facebook, your online footprint can feel like a permanent, sometimes inalterable thing. That’s probably why Mark Zuckerberg and company have finally started catering to the cautious crowd with their new ephemeral photo messaging app, Slingshot.
At its core, Slingshot is similar to Snapchat, which allows you to send photo messages to anyone in your address book. Those messages can come in video or photo format, and you’re able to overlay colorful drawings or text. Once you view a photo, it disappears forever, unless you take a screenshot.
Unlike Snapchat, Slingshot allows your friends to look at your photo for as long as they like. It doesn’t go away until you swipe the photo to the right; there’s no time limit. And they can even take screenshots without notifying you.
The mechanics of how you can send and receive photo messages are also a little different from Snapchat. Before you can look at a received message, you must send something of your own creation back. It’s a clever twist on the traditional Snapchat format, which allows you to passively receive selfie after selfie without ever reciprocating.
In a sense, Facebook’s creative team has found a way to encourage, nay, require participation.
The only problem? People still find a way to buck this responsibility by simply taking a photo of nothing: the ceiling, the floor, a blur of “meh.” The result, according to what I’ve seen so far, is more low-quality photos streaming into your inbox.
Hopefully this issue will be remedied by Slingshot’s other defining feature, the ability to tap a photo you’ve received and react directly with your own shot. Facebook did not invent this functionality; we first saw it in Dumbstruck. But, when used correctly, it could create a much more fluid, natural feeling of communication, and encourage human-like interaction. Which is why we’re all staring at our phones, right?
Here’s a quick run-through of how the app works:
After sitting through some cutesy promotional slides, you’ll be asked to sign up using your mobile number. You’ll also be asked to create a screen name, which is the handle people can search for you under. You’ll give your full name, too, which will appear on the shots you send others.
During this process, you’ll be bombarded with a number of permissions alerts. Slingshot wants to send you push notifications, track your location, and access your address book and microphone. This, in turn, will allow it to notify you when someone replies to a shot, to attach a geographic location to your shots, to integrate all your personal contacts into your friend list, and to have sound on videos. Aside from the location option (which seems easy to forget about), it seems that all these permissions must be granted in order for the app to function the way it was meant to.