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How Slingshot Leak Shows Facebook Wants to Own Private Messaging

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Facebook (FB - Get Report), ever on the prowl with wads of cash, is eager to expand its influence in private communication with its homegrown photo-messaging application, Slingshot. With Monday's announcement that David Marcus is leaving Ebay's (EBAY - Get Report) PayPal to join Zuckerberg's Facebook team, the suspicious leak of the Snapchat clone makes clear Facebook's goal to build a bigger and better and faster private messaging service.

The alleged accidental release of Slingshot occurred Monday evening as the app was spotted in Apple's App Store (AAPL), according to TechCrunch. Sightings of the new app came the same day that Facebook announced that Marcus was coming to Menlo Park to oversee its application Facebook Messenger. 

The premature release provided details of the photo messaging application that are very similar to the Los Angeles based company, Snapchat. Slingshot will allow users to communicate with friends using photos that can be sent with type or drawings but with one catch - in order to open or unlock a photo sent from a friend the user must first respond to that same friend with a photo.

Slingshot was quickly removed from iTunes but Facebook told bloggers late Monday that the private photo messaging app will "be ready soon and we're excited for you to try it out." 

Stepping on Snapchat toes is exactly Facebook's plan, analysts say. After Snapchat refused Facebook's offer of $3 billion to acquire the start-up in 2013, Facebook has continued its efforts to take hold of the private messaging market. According to Brian Nowak senior analyst at Susquehanna Financial Group, "going more into messaging is just another product extension. Facebook wants to remain the go to place in social media - just like it did with Instagram and WhatsApp."

Looking at Facebook's track record when launching stand-alone apps, analysts are unsure of the company's success in pursing this sector of social media.

"It is still up in the air - put it in the same bucket as Facebook paper," says Nowak.

After the unimpressive response to Poke, Facebook's original photo messaging application, Slingshot is Facebook's second attempt to create a private photo messaging application.

Facebook shares rose 4.5% by closing bell to $65.71.

-Written by Kathryn Mykleseth in New York.

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