Instagram Slowly Rolls Out Bolt App

As part of Facebook’s broader messaging strategy, its Instagram unit is slowly rolling out a Snapchat-like service named Bolt.

Launched on Tuesday in New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa, Bolt is a one-to-one messaging app that lets users shoot and send photos and videos with a single tap. Like the popular messaging service Snapchat, once recipients swipe away a Bolt message, it effectively disappears.   

“Bolt is the fastest way to share an image or a video -- just one tap to capture and send,” an Instagram spokesman said on Tuesday.

While Instagram is proceeding gingerly with Bolt’s broader release, a domestic launch seems inevitable. “We decided to start small with Bolt in just a handful of countries ... to make sure we can scale while maintaining a great experience,” the spokesman said. “We expect to roll it out more widely soon.”

Users in New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa can now sign up simply with their phone numbers, rather than an email. From there, they can add friends to their “favorites” list, and then, with a single tap, shoot and send a photo or video. Users can also add text captions and reply directly to messages they receive with a photo or text.

Disappearing messaging apps were already big business before Snapchat rebuffed a $3 billion buyout bid from Faceboo last year. Since then, Facebook has dropped $19 billion on WhatsApp, and launched its own ephemeral messaging app, dubbed Slingshot.

Investors continue to place their bets on various messaging services. Secret recently took another $25 million, while Whisper raised a sum approaching $30 million in March.

Snapchat remains the most popular disappearing messaging service, per Forrester, but it faces increasing competition from Whisper, Secret, PostSecret, sixbillionsecrets and Facebook’s Slingshot. Similar to WhatsApp, more straightfoward messaging apps include Kik Messenger, WeChat, Line and Tango.

Once a point of weakness for Facebook, mobile continues to take the company’s fortunes to new heights. Thanks to its mobile ad business, Facebook just reported earnings of $0.42 per share, excluding one-time items, on revenue of $2.91 billion -- up 61% year-over-year.

Second only to Google and its 50% mobile market share, Facebook now boasts 22% of the mobile advertising market, according to eMarketer.


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