Facebook shuts down Creative Labs, along with three apps

Though Slingshot, Rooms and Riff are going away, Facebook will continue to develop stand alone apps

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
December 7, 2015
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Facebook has spent the last few years on a mission to take over your phone with a series of stand alone apps, but now that idea has hit a bit of a snag, and it looks like the company may be refocusing those efforts entirely.

The company is not only shuttering a bunch of the apps it has released recently, but also its entire initiative dedicated toward making those apps a reality, it was confirmed to CNET on Monday. The Creative Labs Facebook page is already gone, now reverting back to the Facebook homepage.

That means saying goodbye to Creative Labs, Facebook's apps development unit, which was behind the production of some of its more experimental apps. Going down with Creative Labs are at least some of the apps created under it, with three already seeing the door.


The first to go is Slingshot, the Snapchat competitor that Facebook released in June of last year. At first it recreated Snapchat but with a twist: users could not unlock content until they send, or "sling," some content back. This was a unique feature, one that helped set Slingshot apart from Snapchat, but one that more than likely also caused a few headaches, and so Facebook removed it in September.

The app got a total makeover in December of 2014, but that apparently not enough to save it. 

This was actually not even the first time that Facebook had tried to rip off Snapchat. It had previously launched Poke, which debuted in December of 2012, an app that allowed users to send each other messages, photos, or videos that had a set time limit before they expired. Each message was deleted after a specific time that the user set, either 1, 3, 5 or 10 seconds.

The app was never really taken seriously, and Facebook seemed to quickly forget about it as well. By May of last year, Poke was no more.


The next to go is Rooms, an anonymity app that debuted in October of last year.

The app allowed users to come together over shared interests, while also keeping their identity a secret. It was kind of like what chat rooms were back in the mid-90s, only with more visual media, including photos and videos. The person who created it would choose the topic of the room, and it could be about anything they wanted. 

The creators were given complete control over every aspect of the room, including the text and emoji on the like button and the cover photo and dominant colors. They could also create custom “pinned” messages, customize member permissions, and even set whether or not people can link to the content created in the room on the web.

The app had been headed by Josh Miller, who joined Facebook following the acquisition of social sharing service Branch Media. He left the company in September to be the first ever first director of product for the White House. So the writing has been on the wall for that one for a bit. 

Rooms will be shutting down for good on December 23.


Finally, Facebook is also getting rid of Riff, which is also the youngest app of all three, having just launched in April of this year.

Riff was  tool for friends to share idea and collaborate on video. User would create a video, and then give it a topic, and then shares that video with their friends, who could then add in their own clips. From there, that person's friends could also add to the video, and out from there it goes, until potentially all of Facebook can be adding to something that one person created.

The future of Facebook's apps

Shutting down Creative Labs does not mean that Facebook is going to stop launching new stand alone apps. On the contrary a Facebook spokesperson told CNET that the company will still experiment with new apps, and support its existing ones.

However, the company likely has bigger ambitions, namely in virtual reality and 360-degree video.

The company launched the ability to share and view 360-degree, or “spherical,” video in News Feed for Android, and recently went all in, debuting 360 video ads, puts them into newsfeeds on iOS and introduces developer tools.

Not surprisingly, Facebook is also said to to be developing its own 360-degree stand alone video app. 

The company also purchased virtual reality company Oculus last year, and will no doubt be developing apps specific to those headsets as well.

The three apps mentioned above were not the only three apps to come out of Creative Labs, of course. Others included its reader app Paper, and its live streaming app Mentions. There is no word right now on what will happen to these other apps going forward, or if they will continue to receive support and updates.

VatorNews has reached out to Facebook for further information. We will update this story if we learn more. 

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