Instagram reveals Bolt, a Snapchat-like messaging app

Rolling out in limited countries, the app lets users send photos and videos with a tap and delete them with a swipe.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read

Instagram's new Bolt photo-messaging app Instagram

Instagram appears to be jousting for Snapchat's market with a new photo and video messaging app called Bolt.

The app lets users quickly snap and send photos and videos to friends "with one tap." The images are ephemeral, just like those sent via Snapchat, letting users delete them with just a swipe.

While the social network has confirmed the rollout of the app, Bolt is not yet available for most countries in the world. The app launched in New Zealand, Singapore, and South Africa on Tuesday for iOS and Android, but it won't come to the US or Europe until Instagram has ironed out any wrinkles.

"We decided to start small with Bolt, in just a handful of countries, to make sure we can scale while maintaining a great experience. We expect to roll it out more widely soon," an Instagram spokesperson told CNET.

Users can sign up for the app with their phone number and start adding friends. Included with the app is a "favorites" list for a user's 20 most exclusive comrades. To share images, users tap the screen to both take photos and send them; users can also add text captions.

The premise behind Bolt is an obvious borrow from Snapchat. In 2012, Snapchat pioneered the ephemeral-messaging game when it released its app that lets users "snap," or send photos and videos that vanish within 10 seconds. Instagram's parent company, Facebook, has also recently gotten into self-destructing photo messaging with its new app Slingshot, which also lets people share short-lived photos and videos.

Instagram has drawn some criticism for the name of its new app. On Monday, a small San Francisco-based company, which makes an app that lets people make voice calls for free, posted an open letter to Instagram pleading for it not to use the name Bolt. Because...this company is also named Bolt. It said that people have already started downloading its app thinking it was Instagram's.

"We think it's not too late for you to consider an alternate name before launch," Bolt CEO Andrew Benton wrote in the letter. "It wasn't too long ago that you were the little guy...Imagine how it would have felt if Google or Apple or Facebook had launched a photo-sharing app called Instagram in 2011."