If … just if … Facebook/Instagram are actually planning to release a disappearing photo sharing app called Bolt, the co-founder and CEO of the already-existing Bolt has issues.
That’s the CEO of the other Bolt, a free calling phone app that can replace the Android default app for that purpose. It offers free calls to other Bolters and the standard rate otherwise, and it works via cellular if no Net connection is available.
In a post Monday entitled “Dear Instagram,” co-founder and CEO Andrew Benton mentioned the “rumors” about a one-touch photo messaging app.
“And we sincerely hope it’s a spectacular success,” he wrote. “There’s only one problem: you’re going to name it Bolt.”
“We came up with the name Bolt last year when my brother suggested it as a way to describe leaving your carrier,” Benton told VentureBeat. “And it generally represents speed and strength, which are two attributes we would want for a carrier replacement.” He added that his company “has not spoken with FB or Instagram directly, but we have tried through multiple channels to get in touch with them.”
Last week, an ad for a “one tap photo messaging” app called Bolt was briefly spotted by some Instagram users. The “install” link led to a dead-end in the Google Play store, and, after a few minutes, the ad stopped showing up.
Facebook watchers noted that, if this was a prematurely released ad for an upcoming app, it would be the third time the social networking giant ventured into this territory of ephemeral photo messengers, the preceding two being Poke and Slingshot. There was one suggestion that the ad was merely a test for lucrative install ads, using a make-believe Bolt app. Yours truly wondered if this was the clever Facebook’s attempt to begin a viral campaign, given that we’re still talking about it and that Slingshot was also released after a false start.
“Our users have reached out to us, wondering whether we’ve been acquired or are possibly providing the underlying technology behind your Bolt app,” Benton wrote. “People are searching for Bolt in the Play Store and downloading our app thinking it’s yours, then leaving frustrated when they realize it’s not what they expected.”
“Please don’t destroy all that effort” that went into “building the Bolt brand and technology to where it is today,” he said.
Benton added that his company has “not spoken with FB or Instagram directly, but we have tried through multiple channels to get in touch with them.”
Out for about a year, Benton wrote that his Bolt will not be competing in the photo messaging space, as the service is focused on replacing users’ mobile phone carrier’s voice and SMS plan.
But, he told us, we “are working on our messaging component to replace your SMS plan, which will of course include the ability to send picture messages.”
“To the extent that Instagram’s Bolt is seen as a picture messaging app, our two apps will be very similar in the relatively narrow space of mobile messaging, so there is potentially a large risk of confusion.”
In this David and Goliath scenario, Benton noted that his company isn’t looking for a legal battle over their pending trademark.
But he apparently doesn’t want Facebook to think he doesn’t care about their needs, assuming they’re going forward with such an app. As a gesture of good will, he offered Instagram the leftover names his company generated last year.