Facebook releases Snapchat competitor app called Poke

Facebook(s fb) announced in a blog post Friday that it’s rolling out its app called Poke, a competitor to the popular photo-sharing app Snapchat that allows users to send photos that disappear seconds after they’re sent. The Poke app, which will be available in the Apple(s appl) iOS App Store on Friday, allows users to send text, photos or videos to Facebook friends and have that content disappear shortly thereafter.

In the blog post, Facebook explained how the app, whose existence was first reported by AllThingsD, will work:

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.

It’s interesting to consider why Facebook would launch a standalone app for photos and messaging when Facebook itself already performs all of those functions — why put them in their own app and add a time limit? Presumably the company has seen the remarkable traction among young users by Snapchat, which was first reported by Om Malik to be raising money from Benchmark’s Matt Cohler, and wanted in on the action.

Presumably Poke will raise new concerns among parents and privacy experts on how the content will be shared and how safe it will be for users to exchange. Privacy has always been a sticky subject for Facebook, and treading into the waters of an app known as “the sexting app” could be iffy.

Snapchat just launched video, and its users are uploading 50 million photos a day — an impressive number when you consider that Instagram gets about 5 million per day. Facebook spent more than $700 million on the Instagram acquisition, so if young users are flocking to apps like Snapchat instead, that could be a problem.