Images your friends can view for 24 hours. Photo filters. Looping videos. Facebook’s ephemeral photo-messaging app Slingshot is taking a few familiar features from other well-loved services (Snapchat, Instagram, Vine) to boost its appeal.
Slingshot wasn’t exactly catching on with anyone with its send-to-view approach to messaging. Version 2.0 is a complete revamp: Instead of a private messaging premise that requires you to send (or “sling”) a shot to a friend before you can open the message they sent you (which was so annoying), Slingshot now lets you take a snap of your day that everyone can see for 24 hours. The makeover has been compared to Snapchat Stories, a similar approach that’s been incredibly popular with users and brands. You can still send a private message by replying or reacting to a story, but Slingshot’s emphasis is no longer on individual conversations.
The relaunch is designed to gin up new users—while Slingshot attracted interest from early adopters and the app-obsessed when it debuted over the summer, people quickly tired of the reply-to-unlock gimmick (I was one of them). Slingshot got rid of that requirement in September, but the app still languished in the App Store and Google Play.
Another major change Facebook’s Creative Labs team didn’t talk about in the Friday blog post announcing the overhaul is the loss of all contacts. You have to sign in to the app using your Facebook account in this version, and doing so makes all of your contacts disappear. It’s unclear if Slingshot will restore old contact lists in a future update, but that’s a major hurdle for fans of the app to overcome. The lack of private messaging is also unpopular, if early user reviews are any indication.
There are now easy ways to explore the app and find new people to follow, but that new feature could also use some work. Instead of displaying the day’s newest stories from strangers in a grid, Slingshot just offers up a list of names. I don’t know these people. Unless I see a compelling photo, I have no reason to follow them. Slingshots from people you follow are arranged in an Instagram-esque grid, so that’s one point for aesthetics.
Slingshot 2.0 aims to be more universal, but still falls short. This is one Facebook experiment that can’t seem to get it right.