Mike Isaac

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Facebook to Launch Its Own Snapchat Competitor App

Facebook is currently testing its own built-in-house version of a “Snapchat-like” application, a messaging app that allows users to send impermanent photo messages to one another, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Facebook plans to launch the app in the coming weeks, sources say, sometime before the end of the year.

Like Messenger and Camera, Facebook’s new app is standalone and separate from the main Facebook app. After the launch, this will bring Facebook’s app count up to four individual apps (five, if you count Instagram).

Facebook could not be reached for comment late Sunday evening.

Snapchat rose to prominence over the last year thanks to its capacity for sending private, “self-destructable” messages. A user can send a photo message to another friend inside the service, choosing the amount of time that the photo will be available for viewing (usually a matter of seconds). After the user views the photo message for the allotted amount of time, the photo deletes itself from the sender’s phone and the receiver’s phone, and Snapchat deletes the message from its servers. Snapchat also recently added video message capabilities to its service.

Facebook’s competing app will do much the same thing. After users open the new app, they are presented with a list of current message threads between them and their friends. Hold a finger down on one of the threads, and a timer comes up to ask how long the message should be viewable. From there, users are able to send the message — which, just like on Snapchat, will only be viewable for a fixed period of time.

Facebook’s new app is another in a string of the company’s aggressive movements into the friend-to-friend communications space.

For instance, Facebook has been highly interested in the fast-growing mobile messaging application WhatsApp (though Facebook isn’t buying WhatsApp, we’ve been told). Two weeks ago, Facebook launched an update to Messenger for Android, where people without a Facebook account can send messages to one another; it was widely seen as a direct, aggressive move into the space WhatsApp currently inhabits.

Photo messages are obviously important to Facebook, as well. It closed the acquisition of mobile photo-sharing app Instagram for $735 million in September (vying aggressively with Twitter, which also wanted to buy the app). Facebook also launched the standalone Facebook Camera app earlier this year, which the company built in-house.

The new Facebook app comes on the heels of a potential new round of financing for Snapchat. Last week, Om Malik reported that Benchmark Capital will soon lead an $8 million venture round for Snapchat, at a rumored valuation of $50 million.

“We haven’t heard anything from Mark [Zuckerberg] about a Snapchat clone,” Snapchat co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel said in an emailed statement on Sunday evening. “We’re big fans of Instagram and the Facebook platform and we look forward to watching Mark continue to innovate and grow his company.”

For any start-up, watching Facebook move deeper into your territory is certainly daunting. But not all of Facebook’s home-grown efforts have killed off the competition. Facebook Questions, for example, was supposed to signal the end of Q&A site Quora. However, Facebook retired its Questions product after it failed to take off.

To put it another way: May the best app win.

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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of Pets.com would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”