It’s a sad day for standalone apps. After Dropbox announced it is shutting down Mailbox and Carousel, Facebook is pulling the plug on its suite of standalone apps.
According to CNET, Facebook is quietly shutting down its Creative Labs division. Creative Labs was tasked with creating unique standalone apps that experimented with Facebook’s social capabilities but also lived beyond the network. On Monday, Facebook pulled three Creative Labs apps from the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store.
The affected apps include Slingshot, a Snapchat-like messaging app; Riff, for “riffing” on viral videos; and Rooms, an anonymous chatroom app. Even though these apps are no longer available on the app stores, Facebook says that users who previously downloaded them can still use them. People will be able to still post on Rooms until December 23. Facebook did not give any final posting day for Slingshot or Riff.
The fact that Facebook is shutting down its Creative Labs doesn’t mean that all of the apps that came out of it were failures. Paper redesigned the News Feed in magazine-style, Mentions is used by famous folks to manage their Facebook followings, and Moments is a private photo-sharing app that relies on Facebook’s social graph to identify friends.
Furthermore, key features from Creative Labs apps sometimes appear on the Facebook flagship app. For example, Paper’s look and feel was replicated when Facebook released its Instant Articles initiative. According to Facebook, we can continue to expect the same integration even as some of these standalone apps get killed.
“Since their launches, we’ve incorporated elements of Slingshot, Riff and Rooms into the Facebook for iOS and Android apps,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNET.
Why this matters: Although Facebook’s size and reach may give the company a huge advantage when it comes to launching (or borrowing) social features, that doesn’t mean that Facebook can create equally engaging standalone apps all the time.
After Slingshot, Rooms, and Riff failed to gain traction, Facebook’s strategy seems to be shifting towards improving its flagship app, instead of creating a suite of Facebook-based mobile software. Last week, Facebook introduced live video streaming as an added feature to its app, as opposed to launching a standalone live-streaming app to compete against Periscope and Meerkat.
Facebook-owned Instagram continues to release standalone apps like the recent GIF-making Boomerang app.