Instagram's Bolt messaging app
Instagram's Bolt messaging app.

Instagram is quietly rolling out a new messaging app that works a lot like Snapchat, called Bolt. To send a message in Bolt, users press on a friend’s face to send a picture, press and hold to send video.

Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg once offered $3 billion to buy Snapchat. Facebook, which owns Instagram, appears to now operate based on an “if you can’t buy ‘em, join ‘em” philosophy.

For now, Instagram is only launching the app in New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa. An Instagram spokesman told the website Verge that the company was launching Bolt on a limited basis, but would eventually roll it out on a wider basis. The three countries were chosen for a mixture of “geographical diversity” and “tight-knit communities,” which would help app developers make Bolt the best it could be.

Bolt only allows a user to send messages to one friend at a time, unlike Snapchat, which allows users to send a single picture to all of their friends. At the bottom of the app, a favorites bar holds four friends, and up to 20 can be added to a user’s friends' list, meaning Bolt works best for small, close groups of friends.

Instagram and its parent company seem intent on gathering the same user base as Snapchat. Last month, Facebook launched Slingshot, a similar app to Bolt that allows users to send picture messages to larger groups of people.

One company is criticizing Instagram’s choice for the app’s name. A San Francisco, California, software company that also develops an app called Bolt, posted an open letter to Instagram asking it to choose a different name.

"We think it's not too late for you to consider an alternate name before launch," Bolt CEO Andrew Benton wrote in the letter. "It wasn't too long ago that you were the little guy ... Imagine how it would have felt if Google or Apple or Facebook had launched a photo-sharing app called Instagram in 2011."