Instagram reveals Bolt photo messaging app by mistake — or not

The "accidental" banner ad introducing Bolt

Above: The "accidental" banner ad introducing Bolt

Image Credit: areli i on Twitter

It could be a classic “oops” moment — or a first step in a viral social campaign for an upcoming release of a Snapchat competitor.

A banner ad reading “Introducing Bolt – One tap photo messaging” has made an appearance within Instagram for Android. The fact that the “free” link only leads to a dead end in Google Play Store suggests that it wasn’t ready for release.

A screenshot of the banner ad has been posted by various Twitter users, who saw it briefly as they were using the Instagram app on an Android smartphone, only to have it disappear a few minutes later.

Speculation abounds as to whether this was a mistake, a test of an app install ad, or a sneaky marketing ploy.

As TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez points out, mobile app install ads have been a lucrative business for Facebook, and bringing them to Instagram is a logical step.

But then there’s the marketing ploy possibility.

Last month, the social giant launched “ephemeral messaging app” Snapchat-like Slingshot for sending disappearing photos and 15-second videos that you mark up with captions and drawings. But you can’t see a message — a “shot” — until you have sent one back, and you’re sending back a photo/video before you’ve seen theirs.

Interestingly, Slingshot was “accidentally” rolled out prematurely to the App Store in a few countries, then withdrawn and released about a week later.

While an interesting riff on the whole disappearing photo/video messaging idea, Slingshot — Facebook’s second try at an ephemeral messaging app — has generated pushback about the idea that you have to keep generating and sending imagery, before you can see what others have sent.

So, a third try from Facebook at ephemeralness, with a head fake first, will not be — shall we say — a bolt out of the blue.

Neither Facebook/Instagram nor Snapchat have responded to our request for comments.

More information:

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 1.15 billion monthly active users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 we... read more »

Instagram is a free photo sharing application designed for use on Apple iOS devices developed by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. The application, which is compatible with any iPhone or iPod Touch running iOS 3.1.2 or above, allows user... read more »

Snapchat is a photo messaging application developed by four Stanford students. Using the app, users can take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a controlled list of recipients. Users set a time limit for how... read more »

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