Facebook’s tendency to brand its new applications and features with names that are already in use in the tech sector appears to have been adopted by its Instagram unit, as well, as Andrew Benton, co-founder and CEO of mobile voice app Bolt, penned a blog post in the form of a “Dear Instagram” letter to the Facebook-owned photo- and video-sharing network over its apparent plans to launch a photo-messaging app called Bolt.
TechCrunch reported last week that some Instagram users were seeing banner ads for a one-tap photo-messaging app called Bolt, but the “free” button to presumably download the app took users to a dead Google Play URL.
Facebook introduced Timeline in September 2011, and shortly thereafter, the social network became embroiled in a long lawsuit by Timelines.com over the name. The Timelines.com suit was finally settled in May 2013.
Benton wrote in his blog post:
There’s just one problem: You’re going to name it Bolt.
We know it’s a great name, because we chose it last year when we set out to build a better mobile voice and messaging experience.
We’ve worked really hard since then building the Bolt brand and technology to where it is today. Please don’t destroy all that effort.
We have no intention of competing with you. We are building a service to replace your mobile phone carrier’s voice and SMS plan, so that you only need to pay them for data. We have a ton of respect for what you’ve achieved in mobile photo sharing, and we expect that your new one-touch photo messaging app will be quite popular.
But there is already confusion in the market, and that confusion obviously hurts us more than it hurts you. Our users have reached out to us, wondering whether we’ve been acquired or are possibly providing the underlying technology behind your Bolt app. People are searching for Bolt in the Google Play store and downloading our app thinking it’s yours, then leaving frustrated when they realize it’s not what they expected.
It wasn’t too long ago that you were the little guy. I know you haven’t forgotten how hard it is to build something from nothing. And not just technology, but a brand and distinct identity for yourself. Imagine how it would have felt if Google or Apple or Facebook had launched a photo-sharing app called Instagram in 2011.
We’ve been using the Bolt name in the mobile messaging market for a year, and technically we have to “police our mark,” otherwise we risk losing it.
We don’t want a legal battle over this, and we think it’s not too late for you to consider an alternate name before launch. I have a whole list of names we brainstormed last May that I’d be happy to share.
Please do the right thing, and choose an alternate name.
Readers: Should Instagram change the name of its Bolt photo-messaging app, if the app actually launches?