Instagram’s “Bolt” Leak Could Be A New Facebook App Or An App Install Ad Test

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Some Instagram users are reporting having briefly seen a banner advertisement within the Instagram application which pointed to a new app called “Bolt,” described as a “one tap photo messaging” app. Next to the app’s name and description, a download button linked out to a non-functional URL on the Google Play store.

The current speculation being shared around the web is that Bolt is a new application soon to be released by Instagram. However, it also seems likely that the Bolt leak was a test involving an expansion of Facebook’s app install ads to the company-owned Instagram platform.

Screenshot_2014-07-23-20-40-32The existence of Bolt was first brought to our attention by TechCrunch tipsters, who sent in screenshots to our tips line late last night. One tipster even proclaimed: “They’re coming at Snapchat again. Guaranteed.”

News of Bolt’s odd debut has also been picked up by a number of sites, including The Verge, Business Insider, Gizmodo and others. The company has yet to officially comment on the matter.

There is already a mobile application on the Google Play store called “Bolt” but it’s a mobile calling app. Despite having a similar, pink-hued lightning bolt icon, we’ve confirmed that this Bolt is not the Bolt in question.

A New App?

The current assumption that Bolt is an Instagram creation makes sense, given that taking on Snapchat has clearly been a big focus for Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, which also recently launched a picture messaging client called Slingshot. And Slingshot, too, was accidentally revealed by going live a bit earlier than planned. One could joke that someone at Facebook has “slippery fingers.”

In addition, Facebook Messenger product manager Peter Deng moved over to Instagram last year, which could have influenced the service’s newer emphasis on messaging.

And finally, TechCrunch has been hearing that Facebook has some “big stuff” planned for next week, and the launch of Bolt could be part of it.

Or Install Ads?

That being said, it’s worth pointing out that there’s nothing in this leak that specifically confirms that Bolt is a forthcoming Instagram-owned property. The placement of the banner ad at the top of the user’s stream could also very well be a test of app install advertisements.

Mobile app install ads have proved to be an extremely profitable business for parent Facebook, though the company tried to downplay that during its earnings announcement yesterday in order to make its mobile ad offerings seem more diverse. However, the company made $1.66 billion in the quarter from mobile ads, which now account for 62% of Facebook’s ad revenue.

Bringing those same advertisements to the Instagram platform seems like an obvious next step for Facebook, especially given the wide network of third-party mobile applications that offer up some sort of Instagram integration. These app businesses would likely love to be able to target the Instagram crowd specifically, especially since they are often trying to reach a younger demographic like those that favor Instagram.

Instagram might have been trying out the app install format with a fictional app to see if it was something users would click on.

Or, even if Bolt is the next app from Facebook, it’s interesting to see how well Instagram could serve as a promotion tool for linking users to that application – and, maybe one day, to others.

Additional reporting: Josh Constine  

Image credits: @iRBishnoi on Twitter; Vincent Mac