But the new free “Poke” for iOS comes with a major twist: Instead of its predecessor’s generic “you’ve been poked by” message, the app allows users to send timed text messages, photos, even video, to multiple recipients, and the messages disappear after a preset time — either 1, 3, 5, or 10 seconds.
To be clear, the app only works for users with existing Facebook accounts who elect to download it. A sender can message another Friend on the social network using the new “Poke” app, but if that person doesn’t have the app downloaded, they won’t see the message, and will instead get an invitation to download it for themselves, TechCrunch reported.
Still, the functionality immediately called to mind another popular app, “Snapchat,” the signature product from a Stanford-based startup of the same name, which pioneered the idea of self-destructing messages when it launched in September 2011 and has seen immense growth since then.
But “Snapchat” has also been linked by Gawker and others to teen sexting, the practice of sending sexually explicit texts, photos or videos to others.
Facebook seemed to immediately try and head off these claims in its release for the new “Poke” app by noting it comes with its own “report” feature.
“If you ever see something you’re uncomfortable with, you can click the gear menu and report it,” read a Facebook press release posted Friday.
Separately on Friday, Facebook also began rolling out its new, easier-to-access privacy controls on the website view.
To what extent users embrace Facebook “Poke” and what they use it for remains to be seen, as does Facebook’s ability to control and police its users’ content. TPM reached out to the company for more information on these policies and practices, but a spokesperson did not immediately respond.
And though a clear competitive threat to Snapchat, the startup has one edge on Facebook, for now — Snapchat is also available on Android smartphones, which Facebook’s “Poke” app is not.