Instagram, the photo sharing app acquired by Facebook in 2010 to great fanfare, baffled more than one user a few days ago when a link to “one-tap photo messaging app" named Bolt started to appear on their feeds, to disappear as quickly.
Was it an accidental leak or one of those unannounced but planned ones meant to test out new features, which Facebook is famed for doing? Our answer came today when Instagram officially launched Bolt.
Without a clear explanation for doing so, Instagram launched Bolt only in three markets, and all outside the U.S. The testing grounds for a new app, which promises to eliminate steps to mobile photoshoots are New Zealand, Singapore, and South Africa.
This is how Bolt works.
You do not sign up using your Instagram or Facebook account, but instead through your mobile phone number. The app then scans your address book, and you create your list of favorites based on your activities. In addition to the sign up process, another aspect that will require some getting used to is the lack of a shutter button. Instead, you aim to use your friend's face, the same way you may have used the shutter. Friendly faces from your list are on a scrollable menu, and if you want to share with one of them via a message and a photo, you tap quickly once on their face to take a picture while a long press will allow you to shoot a video. Just focus on your subject and then tap their face, and it sends. Easy and fast.
Shortcomings of the app are notable.
For instance, you cannot upload and send a photo from your phone, you cannot group-send and are limited to only one recipient at a time. There's also no report function, and you cannot choose not to receive NSFW photos. How will spam be controlled remains a mystery? Anyone with your phone number will be able to send you a Bolt. Similar to Snapchat and Slingshot, a deleted Bolt will be automatically destroyed after 30 days and disappears from Instagram’s servers.
There's also the issue that the name Bolt is already associated to an existing app, and its CEO, as he expressed in an open letter to Instagram, is not too happy about the taking of its name. Are these veiled threats of a lawsuit that we hear? Time will tell.
With so many competitors on the photo sharing scene, is there room for one more? What distinctive feature does it offer? It has one thing on its side. Facebook community and backing. Instagram will be promoting Bolt app with in-app banners just like the leaked ones from last week.