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Fling Pulls Early Eyeballs With A Random Message-Bombing Feature

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Make way for (yet) another messaging app. Fling, for that is its name, has a twist — as all messaging apps must now have — in the form of a random message-flinging interface which sends your photo or text (or captioned photo) to up to 50 other users anywhere around the world.

After you’ve flung (flinged?) your missive into the cyber ether, like a virtual message in a bottle (actually more like a crate of bottles all containing the same message), you get to sit back and wait for any randoms who feel moved to reply. In the meantime the app shows you the general location of where your flings landed, plotted on a map view.

If your fling ends up getting any replies, you can then start privately messaging individuals by double tapping on their reply and composing a new message. And that’s pretty much it.

It should be noted that messages on fling are not ephemeral, despite some surface similarities to Snapchat. So if you do want to fling anything rude or unpleasant it’s going to hang around on a lot of other people’s phones. Which may, of course, be exactly the sort of effect you were after… One of the flings I received will kicking the tyres of the app was a topless teen dude captioned ‘Hello world’. Teens do seem the obvious target for Fling.

Now you may think there are precious few folk left with space on their packed smartphone homescreens for another way to message others. But Fling, which launched about a month ago on iOS, says it’s managed to rack up 375,000 downloads and 180,000 daily active users over its short life. Some 150 million ‘flings’ have apparently been received.

But, considering the interface is viral by design — in that it broadcasts every message sent on the service to up to 50 others (the user can set how many people they want to fling their stuff to) — then some early large numbers aren’t hugely surprising, given it’s stacking the deck to proliferate usage (the number of recipients was default set to 42 when I tested it).

Whether Fling can sustain people’s interest after the novelty of photo bombing randoms and chatting to strangers wears off remains to be seen. Novelty may burn bright, but it also fast burns out. Time will tell whether the teens fall in love with Fling or find something else that sustains their attention.

The most obvious use-case — beyond shiggles — appears to be as a virtual hook-up app to find remote sexting buddies to photo-message to one-on-one. Not that Fling is saying that of course. Update: Well that didn’t take long; the first five replies to my inaugural Fling included one picture of a penis. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Fling is a side-project of UK-based student social network startup Unii — whose founder Marco Nardone tells TechCrunch he came up with the idea earlier this year while taking a flight.

“Back in late January, I took a flight to Hong Kong and while I was staring at the flightpath map on my seat screen I had one of those insane moments where my fingers couldn’t type my idea fast enough on Notes,” he says. “What if we shook up the messaging structure? What if you could ‘fling’ a private message out to the world, and literally see it fly and land all over a world map – much like the one I was looking at on my British Airways seat screen.  By the time we landed I had already prototyped the designs for Fling.”

Fling itself is now in the process of being spun out as a separate entity from Unii, which has raised around £6.8 million in Series A and B funding, some of which was used for developing Fling. “We will now be raising separate funding for Fling,” adds Nardone.

The app itself is pretty buggy right now — with received flings not always loading when you hold your finger to view them (an interface feature lifted straight from Snapchat, obviously).

However Nardone confirms that an earlier bug which was leaking users exact locations — as detailed here — has now been fixed. “We now only display by country,” he says.