Facebook releases ‘Poke’ app

December 21, 2012

Facebook released a little holiday surprise Friday with a new messaging app called “Poke.”

The name, of course, is a play off of Facebook’s “Poke” function, which has always been the network’s way of sending a digital wave. Now Facebook users can send more complex greetings through the app, which lets you send text, a photo or even a quick video.

To see messages from friends, users can press and hold the message until it expires.

The app, as rumored, is similar to the Snapchat service, which lets users send real-time messages that are only available for a few seconds. Poke lets users send messages to individual users or groups that are visible for up to 10 seconds.

Snapchat has grown in popularity since its launch last year, reporting last week that it sees more than 50 million messages flow through its site a day. But the service has also gained a reputation as some users feel more free to send graphic or otherwise inappropriate messages because those messages disappear so quickly.

Perhaps as a nod to this kind of behavior, Facebook mentioned that if Poke users ever see anything they’re “uncomfortable with” they can easily report inappropriate content to the network through the settings menu.

Poke is currently only available on the iPhone, as a free download.

The app adds to Facebook’s growing portfolio of mobile applications, including Facebook Messenger, Facebook camera and, of course, Instagram. The company has been very focused on improving the quality of its main apps, as well, recently releasing native versions of the Facebook app for Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS operating systems.

The network has seen a jump in mobile traffic over the past year. In May, comScore reported that Facebook users spent more time with the Web site through their mobile devices than through their computers.

(Washington Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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