Known as Slingshot, the app's features include sharing photos and videos with friends and sending "reaction shots".
It uses an unlocking mechanism, whereby photos received from friends must be unlocked by "slinging" a different photo back to the original sender.
Like Snapchat, all images are deleted once sent and users can scribble or type over their photos.Before viewing a received photo, the user must send back one of their own
On the social media page for the app, the creators said: "With Slingshot, we wanted to build something where everybody is a creator and nobody is just a spectator.
"When everyone participates, there's less pressure, more creativity and even the little things in life can turn into awesome shared experiences."
The app is developed by Facebook's Creative Labs division, which has been tasked with creating new and innovative products.
Slingshot users do not need to have a Facebook account to sign up for the photo-messaging app. They can access the app with their mobile phone number and connect with friends in their phone's contact list, or they can connect via their Facebook friends' list.Snapchat competitor?
The Slingshot launch comes as Facebook is trying to fight off threats from other social networking agents, which also contain messaging and photo-sharing tools.
In addition to developing its own apps, Facebook has also been on an acquisition spree.
In 2012 Facebook bought photo-sharing network Instagram for $1bn (£589m).
A year later, it was reported that Snapchat rejected a $3bn bid from Facebook, revealing the social media giant's apparent continued and serious interest in photo-messaging services.
Previously Facebook attempted and failed to create a successful image-messaging app called Poke, which was recently abandoned and had been described by some as a "blatant copycat app."Until an image is unlocked, the recipient only sees a pixelated version
However, unlike Poke, Slingshot has a number of unique features not found in rivals such as Snapchat, which could help it distinguish itself.
In addition to the unlock requirement, Slingshot features a "select all" function, which allows people to send a picture to all their contacts at the same time.
As the Verge news site notes, Snapchat has deliberately avoided offering such a facility to avoid its users becoming overwhelmed with alerts.
Another similar app and potential rival is Taptalk, which is reportedly admired among some Facebook engineers.
Taptalk provides a comparatively minimalist and simplified approach to image messaging, allowing users to send personal pictures or videos by tapping or holding their friend's profile picture.
It has also been noted that Slingshot's icon is strikingly similar to Taptalk's.
At this point Slingshot is available on Apple's App Store and Google Play to US account holders, but not elsewhere.