Facebook Shuts Down Creative Labs, Kills Some Mobile Apps
After Facebook's reported failure to buy photo-sharing app Snapchat for some $3 billion in cash in 2013, the company developed its own ephemeral photo- and video-sharing app, Slingshot. It was the second app spun out of Facebook's Creative Labs in-house mobile apps incubator, which was announced in January 2014.
Today, both Creative Labs and Slingshot (pictured) appear to be no more, quietly killed off by Facebook along with its Rooms app, which allowed people who shared a common interest to connect pseudonymously, and Riff, its collaborative video app. What was once the Creative Labs Facebook page now offers only an error message stating, "Sorry, this content isn't available right now."
"We've removed the Slingshot app from the App Store and Google Play, but people who have already downloaded the app on their phones can continue to use it," Facebook noted in an update posted on its Slingshot Help Center last week. A similar message was posted on the Riff Help Center, while the Rooms page noted, "Rooms will be closing its doors on December 23, 2015. After then, you'll no longer be able to post. You'll still be able to delete any content you've posted."
Apps Live in Other Forms
Facebook did not respond to our request for more details regarding its decision. However, a Facebook spokeswoman confirmed to CNET yesterday that the apps had been removed, adding that they hadn't been updated in some time. The spokeswoman said that the company had already incorporated some elements of the targeted apps into its current iOS and Android Facebook apps.
Creative Labs was launched as a way for Facebook to create "new apps to support the diverse ways people want to connect and share." Its first app, Paper, was launched at the same time the initiative was announced. While Paper is still available for download on Apple's iTunes store, a recent article on Wired observed that the app's more lasting impact might be as a source of inspiration for the Instant Articles feature rolled out for Facebook's News Feed earlier this year.
App Family Challenges
Having acquired dozens of companies since it launched in 2004, Facebook today can more properly be described as "a family of apps" rather than a single social networking site, CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted earlier this year at the company's F8 developers' conference. Zuckerberg said at the time that Facebook's goal was to enable everybody in the world to connect in a variety of ways.
While Facebook now reports at least 1.55 billion monthly active users, and hit the milestone of one billion daily active users in September, some of its other apps don't come anywhere close to those levels of usage. Its Groups app, for example, shows under 200,000 downloads on the Google Play Store, and its Moments photo-sharing app reports just over 70,000 downloads.
Former Forrester Research Inc. analyst Josh Bernoff noted last year that shattering into a collection of apps is necessary for Facebook to stay relevant in a world of mobile connectivity.
"Its pivot to a collection of mobile apps will be extraordinarily difficult," Bernoff said at the time. "But it's the only way forward. If you disagree, ask yourself -- do you really think a single monolithic Facebook app will still be relevant five years from now?"