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Slingshot: Facebook's answer to Snapchat

“If we can’t buy it, we’re going to build it.”

That’s how Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief summed up Facebook’s (FB) motivation behind its newest app, Slingshot. The app, which debuted yesterday, allows users to send and receive photo and video messages. Once a message has been viewed and cleared, it disappears from the phone.

The app is similar to Snapchat, which Facebook offered to buy for $3 billion last year. Snapchat rejected the offer from the world’s largest social media network. Slingshot sprung from Creative Labs, an incubator for ideas inside Facebook.

One difference between the apps is that Slingshot requires users to respond to a message before they can see its contents. Slingshot’s creators wrote on their blog, “With Slingshot, we wanted to build something where everybody is a creator and nobody is just a spectator.” And unlike Snapchat, Slingshot owners can send messages to multiple users at once.

After Snapchat's rejected its offer, Facebook made their own video- and photo-messaging app because that’s what pre-teens are using, said Task. He did say, however, that it would be difficult for Facebook to compete with Snapchat. “We’ll see if this is something that keeps the kids engaged on Facebook,” he added.

Mobile use is another reason Facebook created Slingshot. The company bought mobile-based photo-sharing app Instagram for $1 billion in 2012. Earlier this year, Facebook said it would buy mobile-messaging app WhatsApp for $19 billion. Task said that while Facebook began on a desktop, it is moving into the mobile world.

“They want to give people who are on mobile devices more and more reasons to keep sticking with Facebook-related and Facebook-owned properties," he said.

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