It’s looking pretty likely that Instagram is gearing up to introduce its own Snapchat competitor, and it’s going to be a standalone app, not integrated into the main app itself. Confused Android users on Thursday started taking to Twitter to highlight a strange entry, called Bolt, that mysteriously started showing up inside the main Instagram app. Only, when you clicked on the link to download, it went to a broken page in the Google Play store. So what gives? Instagram hasn’t officially announced any Snapchat competitor, and there’s no indication the service ever had any interest to begin with. But given Snapchat’s immense popularity, and Facebook’s obvious envy of the service, it’s no surprise to see Instagram jumping into the fray. The photo-sharing app has continued to grow at a rapid rate since its acquisition by Facebook, so if any service can take on the Snapchat juggernaut, it might be Instagram.
Instagram seems to have accidentally posted a link to its new “one tap photo messaging app” Bolt inside Instagram for Android. Tapping the “free” button yields a dead end in the Google Play Store. Only a few users seem to be seeing the link, and some of whom have posted screenshots on Twitter. Instagram hasn’t responded to a request for comment. Richard Groves, one of the few privy to the new banner ad, tells The Verge that he was using the official Instagram app on his Nexus 5 around 11PM ET last night when he first saw Bolt, and then it went away 15 minutes later. Another source using a Moto X confirmed that the Bolt banner showed up last night. Facebook frequently tests hidden features inside its Android and iOS app only to “activate” them later — this is how it rolls out new features over long periods of time — but sometimes the company has shown to be careless in doing so. Before launching its new ephemeral messaging app Slingshot, Facebook accidentally leaked the app on the App Store. Before Slingshot’s launch, rumors swirled that Facebook was working on a new app to emulate Taptalk, a new “one tap” photo messaging app. Slingshot ended up looking more like Snapchat, however. Perhaps Bolt is the app we were looking for? Another angle on Bolt comes from TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez, who speculates that Bolt might be a fictional app being used to test “app install ads” inside Instagram. Facebook has only recently rolled out app install ads itself, so it would be a shock to see them so soon inside an ad platform as nascent as Instagram, but that doesn’t mean the company isn’t testing them.