Photo sharing app maker Instagram launched Bolt, its take on ‘ephemeral’ photo messaging, in a handful of markets, as part of parent Facebook’s strategy to create more separate mobile products.
The existence of Bolt was hinted at earlier last week when promotional banners for the service appeared in some Instagram feeds as part of an ongoing in-app advertising trial the company is running.
Bolt has initially been launched in Singapore, South Africa and New Zealand on iOS and Android.
Instagram told TechCrunch that the markets were chosen as they have the highest usage of the service, as well as deeply interconnected communities, high penetration of the Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS and English-speaking audiences.
The company plans to tweak the app using feedback in the initial markets before launching in its home market of the US.
Bolt appears to be another product intended to offer competition in the ‘ephemeral messaging’ segment, in which photo messages sent via apps are deleted after being viewed. Snapchat is the most well-known player in the space and reportedly turned down a $3 billion bid from Facebook late last year.
Where Bolt is available, users sign up with their phone number, with no Instagram or Facebook account required, according to TechCrunch.
The Bolt camera shows the faces of contacts, which can be clicked once to capture and send images or videos. This one tap capability and speed of use is touted as Bolt’s selling point, although the likes of TapTalk and Mirage are very similar.
Once images have been viewed, users can swipe them away to delete them or they are destroyed after 30 days. They can then reply with a Bolt image or a message overlayed on a blurred version of the received image, in a similar way to Slingshot.
Another interesting feature is that sent images can be recalled a few seconds after they have been sent by shaking the phone. This will also bring up the option to save the outgoing shot to the camera roll on the device.
There is also a feature to block unwanted contacts, while users can opt out appearing in phone number searches.
Instagram already has the Direct feature, which was launched in December last year, giving users the ability to send photos and videos to individual users.
Instagram’s owner, Facebook, now offers its main app, Messenger, Groups, Paper and messaging app Slingshot, and should soon have WhatsApp on its roster. Just this week, Facebook removed messaging from its main app on a global basis, restricting the functionality to Messenger.
A representative from Instagram told TechCrunch that the company expects Bolt to be very popular without cannibalising Facebook’s other apps.
The name of the new product could create some issues, with Andrew Benton, the co-founder and CEO of an existing mobile voice and messaging app called Bolt, writing a blog post encouraging Instagram to choose a new name for its service, adding that his company did not want to resort to legal action.