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Instagram Unveils New Photo Messaging Service Bolt

Limited Early Release For Snapchat Rival

Instagram has officially released their Snapchat competitor Bolt, although at the time of writing the new app is only available in Singapore, South Africa, and New Zealand. Instagram says that it chose to roll out the new feature in these countries first because of their high rates of Instagram usage and generally close-knit communities – the perfect testing ground for a new social app.

Bolt was initially leaked a few days ago via a banner ad on Instagram which lead to a dead link in the Google Play Store and was quickly removed. Rumours of a new direct photo messaging app from the Facebook-owned Instagram had been circling for some time, however, and so this release came as little surprise.

Bolt functions in much the same way as many existing photo messaging apps, with some differences. The action to select a recipient for your photo and to send it is combined: your friend’s profile picture acts as the shutter button. Instagram claims that this is part of streamlining the whole procedure as much as possible, but whether users will consider cutting one tap out of the process to be worth the effort of migrating over remains to be seen.

The new app has a couple of interesting unique features. You can shake your phone a few seconds after sending a Bolt in order to cancel the message, which also gives you the option to save the photo to your phone – useful if you accidentally snap a particularly unflattering selfie, or take a picture so gorgeous it would be a waste to send it (like Snapchat, Bolt’s photos are automatically deleted after being viewed). You can also only send a photo to one person at a time; if you want to send it to another person, you have to take the photo again. This is perhaps the greatest departure for a company like Instagram, built on the very idea of a mass following.

There is little feedback about the app’s functionality thus far, other than the general report that it seems an attractive and well-designed app; more so than the slightly clunky Snapchat, although a little roughness around the edges has never slowed a platform’s ascent, as the early days of Instagram itself will attest.

This release partly serves to confirm the long-stated independence of Instagram even as it operates under its parent Facebook; Zuckerberg’s company released its own ephemeral messaging app last month, Slingshot, which offered very similar functionality apart from the necessity of sending a reply before you could view the message that you had been sent. Slingshot has yet to really take off, and the presence of Bolt now makes for a rather crowded scene alongside other such apps as TapTalk and Mirage.

There has been a little fuss over the name itself: there is already a startup called Bolt, which develops alternative calling and messaging possibilities based around a user’s data plans. Given Facebook’s previous record in ignoring requests from sketchbook app Paper to alter the name of their own Facebook Paper it seems as though the original Bolt will end up in the social networking behemoth’s dust trail, as forgotten as a late-night drunken Bolt sent to an old girlfriend.


Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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Instagram Unveils New Photo Messaging Service Bolt Reviewed by Anonymous on Thursday, July 31, 2014 Rating: 5
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