Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Facebook Confirms Snapchat Competitor — Launching Poke iPhone App

Facebook said today that it was launching Poke, an app for the Apple iPhone that AllThingsD.com previously reported was poised to be released to rival the popular Snapchat.

Facebook’s new app to send impermanent messages is standalone and separate from the main Facebook app, bringing its total app count to five. Others include Messenger, Camera and Instagram. Blake Ross, a director of product at Facebook, said Friday that he and a small team built Poke in 12 days.

Poke is a reference to the irritating-to-oldsters-like-me and longtime feature, giving users of the social networking site the ability to “poke” each other to say hello.

In a blog post today, Facebook said:

“With the Poke app, you can poke or send a message, photo, or video to Facebook friends to share what you’re up to in a lightweight way. You can poke an individual friend or several at once. Each message expires after a specific time you’ve set, either 1, 3, 5 or 10 seconds. When time runs out, the message disappears from the app.”

In other words, it’s a feature-for-feature ripoff clone of Snapchat, which is about to need that big round of funding that the start-up is reportedly raising to further grow its self-destructible messaging empire.

As ATD reporter Mike Isaac wrote earlier this week:

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.

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When AllThingsD began, we told readers we were aiming to present a fusion of new-media timeliness and energy with old-media standards for quality and ethics. And we hope you agree that we’ve done that.

— Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, in their farewell D post