In Depth

Bolt app: what is it and how is it different from Snapchat?

New messaging service from the makers of Instagram is trying to muscle in on a crowded market

Instagram has launched a new app that, like Snapchat, allows users to send photos to one another that are erased instantly after they have been seen.

The app, called Bolt, has so far only been released in New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa, which often act as proving grounds for new apps and games before they are released worldwide. So will it go on to be a hit like Instagram before it?

What is Bolt?

Bolt allows users to send short-lived images or videos to one another from mobile devices. The messages erase themselves just seconds after they have been viewed by the recipient.

How does it work?

The app is very similar to the messaging app TapTalk, but "a lot prettier," tech site Verge says. Users can tap on a friend's face to send them a photo instantly, or hold down on their friend's picture to send them a video. If a Bolt message is sent by mistake, a shake of the phone will make the message disappear.

Why do we need it?

According to Time magazine, the service is "Instagram's answer to similar apps like Snapchat", which has a significantly smaller but more dedicated and active user base. Some 500 million SnapChat messages are sent every day, versus 60 million Instagram images.

The app will also compete with the Slingshot app – another Facebook-owned photo sharing service that launched just over a month ago.

Some analysts question Instagram's ability to muscle in on an already crowded market. Others note that Instagram has created a method that allows users to share photos directly with one another via Instagram itself, making Bolt an app that doubles up on functions that already exist.

But Verge says that Bolt "fits an odd niche". Instagram's private message sharing is currently very slow, whereas Bolt aims to allow users to share things very quickly with single taps.

It is unclear whether this will be a strong enough motivation for people to adopt the new app en masse. But Instagram is keen to underline how seriously they are taking Bolt.

"This isn't a side project," an Instagram spokesperson told Verge. "We are totally behind this thing."

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