Facebook Says Goodbye to Slingshot, Rooms; closes Creative Labs

8 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook Axes Experimental Creative Labs, Pulls Apps.

Facebook is shuttering its internal R&D division, Creative Labs, launched nearly two years ago as an effort aimed at allowing the large company the ability to act more nimbly – and more like a startup. Slingshot was Facebook’s SnapChat competitor, which let users share ephemeral photos and videos, while Rooms was a group-messaging service that brought a modern spin to chat rooms popular in the early days of the Internet.As reported by CNET, the company has removed the public web page dedicated to Creative Labs, and it has removed three of its standalone apps from the Apple App Store: Slingshot, an ephemeral messaging service that mimicked the popular Snapchat app; Riff, a group video-making app similar to a Snapchat tool called Our Story; and Rooms, a way of chatting semi-anonymously that seemed to answer apps like Whisper, Secret, and YikYak. Riff allowed users to create and share short videos based on a theme (Facebook) Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg may be talking up his company’s innovation drive around the world but back home in California, the social media giant has quietly pulled the plug on Creative Labs –- an initiative that allowed employees to attend binge-coding sessions to come out with experimental apps. “Facebook is famous for its mantra ‘Move fast and break things’.

Facebook will continue to develop standalone apps, but without the Creative Labs banner. “We’re continuing to embrace the spirit of creative risk-taking by continuing to allow some smaller development teams within the company to experiment with new ideas for standalone apps,” Facebook said. Along with the closure of the group itself, Facebook is also pulling several of its under-performing apps, including photo-sharing app Slingshot, anonymous chat app Rooms, and collaborative video app Riff.

The company decided some of these initiatives had, in fact, failed to gain traction and is shutting them down,” a Facebook spokesperson said.The shutdown of Creative Labs is nothing new for the Menlo Park-based company that regularly scraps projects with little output. As Facebook product manager Michael Reckhow told us after Creative Labs first launched early last year, this was wasn’t a physical lab or even a team of people. It let users send messages that eventually self-destructed, but in a bid to distinguish itself from Snapchat, recipients could not view the sender’s content until they sent a message in return.

More from WSJ.D: And make sure to visit WSJ.D for all of our news, personal tech coverage, analysis and more, and add our XML feed to your favorite reader. Rooms, in particular, was buzzed about at the time of launch because it was Facebook’s first experiment with a way to network without having to share your real name. Facebook’s Flipboard competitor Paper still has a small but devoted following, and its photo-sharing app Moments even saw some spikes in its growth in recent weeks, thanks to heavier promotion on the Facebook site and in the Facebook Messenger application. And it directly inspired a core Facebook service called Instant Articles, which allows publishers to publish news articles straight to Facebook in a format that will load unusually quickly in users’ News Feeds. CNET was the first to report the news of the group’s shutdown, with a spokesperson telling the site that elements of the shuttered apps had been incorporated into the main Facebook iOS and Android applications.

The strong initiative drive is part of the company strategy Zuckerberg hinted during his visit to India, saying Facebook was planning to integrate various innovations in the social network, including virtual reality. Moments does allow for photo-sharing and can produce videos made up of your photos and those from friends, but it’s more focused on private sharing between individuals or small groups rather than a utility for video creation, like Riff. The problem with Facebook’s Creative Labs’ apps – like many new releases on today’s app stores – is that it’s hard to find an audience without promoting the apps in some way, such as via advertisements, paid user acquisition efforts, marketing efforts, or heavy media attention. Meanwhile, Slingshot and Riff have already been pulled from the respective app stores, but will still work for users who have the downloaded and installed.

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