Many of Facebook’s Creative Labs apps, including Slingshot (pictured above), have been removed from the app store.
If you were excited by some of the new and innovative apps coming from Facebook, be prepared for some disappointment.
The social networking giant has removed some of its new apps from the App Store, including Slingshot, an ephemeral messaging service that competed with Snapchat, and Rooms, a group messaging service. The company has also removed the webpage for Creative Labs, the startup-like initiative within its ranks that encouraged employees to make the apps.
Announced two years ago, Creative Labs was an effort to encourage designers and engineers at the company to create new and innovative ideas without feeling the pressure to quickly attract millions of users.
“Since their launches, we’ve incorporated elements of Slingshot, Riff and Rooms into the Facebook for iOS and Android apps,” a Facebook spokeswoman said. “We haven’t updated these apps in some time and we’ve decided to officially end support by removing them from the App Store and Google Play.”
Silicon Valley has alway operated under the directive to “fail fast,” encouraging developers to brainstorm and test new ideas quickly. Facebook decided some of these initiatives had, in fact, failed to gain traction and is shutting them down. The company’s marketing materials devoted to the Creative Labs team has also been removed from the Internet.
The move marks a turning point for Facebook’s app ambitions as it focuses on other areas of innovation. It’s still building artificial intelligence technology, drones to beam Internet signals to far-flung parts of the world and virtual reality goggles. The company has also been steadily adding features to its primary social networking service, such as live streaming and 360-degree videos.
Creative Labs was a two-year experiment that often drew inspiration from Facebook’s famous “hackathons,” binge-coding sessions where developers work together over a day or so to create a prototype app or service.
One such app was Slingshot, which was conceived of two years ago by Joey Flynn and Rocky Smith, a designer and engineer respectively. Slingshot’s team eventually grew to about 10 people.
Slingshot allowed users to take a photo or video and then send it to friends. Those people then responded with their own photos or videos.
Facebook signaled modest hopes for these apps from the start. The company told reporters it didn’t expect its community of more than a billion people to sign up immediately, and Facebook didn’t heavily promote them either.
“We’re not going to fly a flag about it,” Flynn said at the time about Slingshot’s launch. “We want it to start with a small group.” Today, Slingshot isn’t available on the App Store, though Facebook said its service is still available.
Rooms, which is also being shut down, is a group-messaging service that brought a modern spin to the chat rooms that were popular in the early days of the Internet. Users could log in anonymously — no Facebook account required — and post videos, photos or text. People joined chatrooms through an invitation that contained a QR code, similar to the way people can follow one another on Snapchat’s messaging service. Facebook said it will be shutting down rooms on December 23.
Rooms had been overseen by Josh Miller, the former head of the social network Branch, which Facebook bought last year. Miller joined the White House as director of product in September.
Facebook said it will still experiment with new apps, and support initiatives like Instagram’s Hyperlapse video and Layouts photo editor.