Now, here's where the core "slingshot" action comes into play. If you want to unlock all of those images from all of your friends in one swoop, you can do so by sending just the one shot that you took. Of course, you can also send the photo or video to just a few friends, or to people who haven't slung any shots to you as well. But the idea that you can unlock several images in one fell swoop is one of the reasons Slingshot is really more of a "blast" or group-feed app, rather than a simple messaging one. "You typically want this moment shared to a bunch of people -- it's how it works best," says Flynn.
When you finally do get to unlock those shots, you'll see those pixelated images dissipate, leaving behind a clear image of what your friend captured. Like many other ephemeral messaging apps, you can then swipe them to remove them for good. If you decide you want to react to a particular post, however, you can tap on it to send what's called a reaction shot. It'll bring up a half-screen view of a camera with the original still in the background. Unlike regular "slingshots," these reaction shots are already unlocked and don't need to be replied to in order to view them. Additionally, those reaction shots are instantaneous -- just hitting React will send the response, without any chance for a preview or confirmation screen.
If let's say you do get a ton of spammy Slingshots from someone, you can choose to hide that person. Also, if a shot goes unlocked for more than 30 days, it'll disappear.
When asked why they thought the reciprocal part of the app was so important, Flynn explains it. "What it does is that it makes it so that everyone feels that they're involved in the community. When you share something, you know you're going to get some stuff back, and you're also unlocking stuff ... There's this cool connectedness you get from that. It makes you feel close with the people you're slinging shots with."
"The blast dynamic where you're sending to lots of people at once, these little moments that you share end up being shared experiences too," says Ruben. Contrasting it to Instagram or other photo apps, he says, "What you share on Slingshot ends up becoming way more spontaneous and authentic. It's something that you share in the moment. It's not the best picture that you took, but it's just [the] in-the-moment, spontaneous window into your life." He adds that there's also a storytelling element to it too, as you can also send multiple shots of a day at the zoo, for example, and have your friends relive that experience along with you.
Based on our first day with Slingshot, it's the kind of app that grows on you. Initially, the interface is a bit tricky, as switching between the camera and your friends page isn't very intuitive. It wasn't immediately clear that long-pressing on the Shoot button takes you to video mode, or that tapping on the bottom of the screen brings up the camera. The experience should be even better when more friends jump on board -- hopefully more of our Facebook contacts will sign up soon.
Once a few Engadget editors started exchanging photos and videos, the process became a bit addictive. The stream of random photos and videos is also a little hilarious once the pace of sharing picks up. One coworker did say that being forced to respond with a photo sounds more like a deterrent than an encouragement, but it's also an opportunity to get creative when you're bored. And if you're busy when you receive a video or photo, the locked message gives you something to look forward to when you have some down time.
The addition of the Slingshot app to Facebook's arsenal does signify that the company is willing to step outside the box. The fact that Slingshot doesn't absolutely require a Facebook login is significant, and it shows that the firm is willing to experiment with alternative means of engaging with the community. If Creative Labs' mantra is to discover new ways to share, Slingshot is most certainly that. It's available on iOS and Android starting today and only in the US at this time.
Sarah Silbert contributed to this report.