Instagram Bolt is very real, but its availability is limited (for now)

30.07.2014, 10:26

Zap photos and videos to friends with a tap

It seemed inevitable that Instagram would eventually launch its own Snapchat competitor, and today the company proved the rumors true with the announcement of Instagram Bolt.

Instagram Bolt Logo (image via TechRadar)

And here it is!

The new iOS and Android app lets users send photos and videos to their friends with a single tap.

Much like in Snapchat and other apps like Taptalk and Facebook Slingshot, the content then disappears as soon as it’s viewed.

There’s just one problem if you want to get your hands on Instagram Bolt right now: it’s only available in three countries.

Instagram Bolt has launched in New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa, and an Instagram spokesperson told TechRadar that the company expects to release it elsewhere „soon.“

„We decided to start small with Bolt, in just a handful of countries, to make sure we can scale while maintaining a great experience,“ the spokesperson said.

In addition The Verge received a statement noting that 65% of Instagram users live outside the US, „so an international launch, while different, is actually not all that out of order with what we do.“

„This isn’t a side project,“ that spokesperson promised. „We are totally behind this thing.“

The Bolt app appeared first in a banner ad inside the Instagram app for Android on July 24.

Using the app is dead simple: tap on a friend’s face to open the camera and shoot and send them a photo, or long-tap to send a video. You can add overlay text, or reply to content you’ve received. Content disappears once it’s viewed and swiped away.

Despite Instagram being owned by Facebook, Bolt will only import friends from your phone contacts, not from your Facebook friends.

And users can set up to four favorites that will stay on the app’s main page, though Bolt only lets users send content to one friend at a time.

It’s a pretty app, but time will tell whether Instagram Bolt has what it needs to compete with the glut of other quick-and-dirty photo messaging apps popping up.

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Facebook is going to force you to download its Messenger app

29.07.2014, 11:25

So long, in-app chat. You served us well

If, like us, you were a little peeved that Facebook had broken off the messaging section of its app into a separate application, there’s a good chance you’ve stubbornly resisted moving over.

FB messenger App (image via TechRadar)

Will you give in?

But unfortunately Facebook is now forcing people to make the switch. Facebook confirmed to TechRadar that the Messaging section of the conventional iOS and Android apps is soon to be removed.

„In the next few days, we’re continuing to notify more people that if they want to send and receive Facebook messages, they’ll need to download the Messenger app,“ said a spokesperson.

„As we’ve said, our goal is to focus development efforts on making Messenger the best mobile messaging experience possible and avoid the confusion of having separate Facebook mobile messaging experiences. Messenger is used by more than 200 million people every month, and we’ll keep working to make it an even more engaging way to connect with people.“

As Facebook reminds us, there have been plenty of pre-warnings; resisting users of the conventional app will be familiar with Facebook’s constant nagging to switch over to the new Messenger system.

But breaking Messenger off into its own entity makes perfect sense for a company that, earlier this year, told us its focus will be on standalone experience.

Facebook recently bought Whatsapp for a cool $19 billion, so between that and Messenger, Facebook’s plan for mobile messaging domination is shaping up nicely.

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OKCupid: yeah, we experiment on people too. So what?

29.07.2014, 11:04

And the results are really interesting

A Facebook exec already apologized for the site playing with users‘ emotions, but OKCupid wants its users to know it’s doing the same – and so is every other website on the internet.

Dating Apps Illustration (image via TechRadar)

Oh well!

The dating site published a bold blog post titled „We Experiment on Human Beings!“ in which OKCupid co-founder Christian Rudder explained that that’s just „how websites work.“

„OkCupid doesn’t really know what it’s doing. Neither does any other website,“ Rudder wrote.

„Most ideas are bad. Even good ideas could be better. Experiments are how you sort all this out,“ he continued.

The post appeared on OKCupid’s blog OKTrends, on which the company has published statistics and information gleaned from analyzing and experimenting with the behavior of its users.

According to Rudder, Facebook didn’t do anything wrong, and he seems to think the outrage over News Feed fiddling is both undeserved and overblown.

„Guess what, everybody: if you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site,“ he wrote, citing several OKCupid experiments, including one in which they removed everyone’s photo for a day and conversations subsequently went deeper than normal (even as usage plummeted).

In another experiment, they told people who were poor matches for one another that they were actually good matches, and those users got along great. It worked both ways, too: users who were actually good matches disliked one another when told they were incompatible.

Sure enough, that apologetic Facebook executive said much the same thing earlier in July.

„This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was,“ Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said while in India, admitting only that „it was poorly communicated.“

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Did Instagram’s rumored Snapchat rival pop up in Android banner ad?

25.07.2014, 12:52

Like a Bolt of lightning, and then it was gone

Facebook-owned Instagram has been rumored to be working on a new photo messaging app to go head-to-head with popular rivals like Snapchat, and evidence supporting such hearsay may have just turned up in the most unlikely of places.

Instagram Bolt Screen (image via TechRadar)

A swift appearance!

The Verge today reported that Instagram appears to have mistakenly leaked the existence of a new Snapchat competitor called Bolt, which turned up as a new banner ad inside the current Instagram for Android app.

„Introducing Bolt,“ the screenshot snapped by Twitter user Richard Groves late Wednesday reads, promising „one tap photo messaging“ and offering a link to download the free app via the Google Play Store.

Needless to say, that particular button goes absolutely nowhere, and the mysterious banner ad vanished 15 minutes later, but not before other late-night internet users managed to spot the same message lurking in their own Instagram installations.

This certainly wouldn’t be the first time Facebook has tested unannounced features inside its mobile apps, with the recent iOS app Slingshot actually leaking onto the App Store before the social network had the chance to announce its existence.

While it’s easy to connect the dots and assume Bolt could be a Snapchat wannabe, a separate report from TechCrunch arrived at an entirely different conclusion, suggesting the app could be a fictional title instead.

„It’s worth pointing out that there’s nothing in this leak that specifically confirms that Bolt is a forthcoming Instagram-owned property,“ remarked Sarah Perez, hypothesizing „Bolt“ could simply be a placeholder for parent company Facebook’s lucrative mobile app install ads.

We’ve reached out to Instagram for further clarification one way or another, but in the meantime, Instagram lovers on Android should keep their eyes peeled for the elusive banner ad that kicked off all this speculation in the first place.

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The best Oculus Rift yet has just started shipping

24.07.2014, 13:24

Patience is most definitely a virtue

Ordered yourself a shiny Oculus Rift DK2? You might want to check your email – after a frustrating last-minute delay, it looks like the next-gen headset has finally begun shipping.

Oculus Rift Pack (image via TechRadar)

Check your mailbox!

Around 10,000 of the 45,000 ordered Rifts will be initially sent out, so a lot of you will have to make do with this reality for a few weeks longer. But hey, at least the wheels are finally turning, right?.

It’s an appropriate week for this to happen, with Facebook and Oculus announcing they’d finally sealed the deal. At the time, Imre Jele, co-founder of Bossa Studios (creator of VR title Surgeon Simulator), told TechRadar that Oculus promised him „nothing will change“ after the acquisition when it comes to gaming VR. We certainly hope that’s the case.

With DK2, the Rift has a 1080p, less motion blur and, most importantly, motional head tracking. Patience is most definitely a virtue. Trust us, we’ve tried it – and it’s so, so awesome.

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Nearly a third of Facebook’s 1.32 billion users now exclusively mobile

24.07.2014, 9:57

Users fleeing desktop for smartphones, tablets

The House of Zuckerberg put on the quarterly dog and pony show for investors Wednesday, and while there’s plenty of cash to go around, the real story is how many of Facebook’s users are ditching the desktop for greener pastures on mobile devices.

FB on mobile (image via TechRadar)

Everywhere and anywhere!

Facebook today announced earnings for the second quarter of 2014, and one thing is clear: The social network is fast becoming a mobile-centric company, with a full 62 percent of advertising revenue now generated from smartphones and tablets.

Founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg’s former Harvard University project is now home to 1.32 billion users, with people flocking to the social network at a rate of 14 percent year over year.

But the real story is just how many of those users are exclusively logging in from mobile devices: 399 million, or roughly a third of the site’s total user base, with plenty more apparently on the way as mobile growth increased 31 percent in the last year.

All of the above translated to bigger quarterly profits for Facebook, with a 61 percent increase to $2.91 billion (about UK£1.71B, AU$3.08B) in revenue, handily beating Wall Street analyst expectations with earnings of 42 cents per share for the second quarter, which ended June 30.

Facebook also somehow managed to spend less over the last three months, more than doubling quarterly profits to $791 million (about UK£464M, AU$838M), a 138 percent increase over the same period last year, which eked out a mere $333 million profit (about UK£196M, AU$353M).

Not surprisingly, the majority of Facebook’s quarterly revenue ($2.68 billion, about UK£1.57B, AU$2.84B) came from advertising, a 67 percent increase over last year’s June quarter, with a whopping 62 percent of ad revenue generated from mobile devices.

Facebook executives plan to leverage video-based advertising to help grow future revenue, and expects to keep operating in an aggressive „investment mode“ through 2015 on the heels of the recent Oculus Rift and WhatsApp acquisitions.

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William Shatner has reviewed Facebook’s VIP app because you’re not allowed to

23.07.2014, 13:24

Thanks, Shaz!

Facebook’s new Mentions app is exclusively for celebrities with verified accounts, meaning that until the TechRadar band finally takes off, we’re unable to test it for ourselves.

FB Mentions App (image via TechRadar)

VIPs only!

That means we’ll have to rely on the stars themselves to scrutinise the new app, and there’s really only one person for the job: William Shatner.

Unfortunately his verdict is one big thumbs down, but the guy certainly gives the app a thorough working over on Shatner Speaks, leading to a riveting conclusion:

„I’m not quite sure why Facebook released this app for „celebrities“. It seems to be ill conceived. I will probably use it to post to my Facebook when I’m on my phone but it doesn’t allow for mail or groups. I will continue to use my regular Facebook app as well as the Pages app.“

Thanks Bill, we salute you. If you fancy reviewing some phones, you know where to find us.

Shatner: not a proven fan of blips. Yet.

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Facebook to allow users to ‚Save‘ interesting News Feed content for later

22.07.2014, 9:54

Your commute home could get more rewarding

Facebook has introduced a new ’save it for later‘ feature that allows users to store interesting web links, pages, movies and music for a more convenient time.

Facebook Save Feature (image via TechRadar)

Without adds, hopefully!

The new ‚Save‘ tool, which is rolling out to the web, iOS and Android apps, makes it easier to keep track of interesting News Feed content without it being lost in the shuffle after falling below the fold.

The Saved content, be it a checked-in restaurant the user may wish to try, or a shared album they want to hear, will be accessible via the ‚More‘ tab on mobile and within the sidebar on the web.

The feature apes the functionality offered by apps like Pocket and the Reading List feature in Apple’s Safari web browser.

Such is the exponential growth of sharing web content on Facebook, the feature comes at a time when many users are struggling to keep up with everything posted by their friends.

While checking out interesting links over the lunchbreak can offer a welcome distraction from the grind, an all day presence on social media can be a productivity catastrophe.

The Save option will allow users to get a little work done, while promising the treat of excellent web content for the commute home, without the risk of being infiltrated by a trillion Buzzfeed posts.

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13 web villains and how they tried to go legit

10.07.2014, 12:41

From villainy to virtue

The world of tech can be a strange place. It’s a place where zeroes become heroes, where public enemies become pillars of society and where tabloid villains turn out to be perfectly legitimate after all. Come with us as we discover the sites, services and (ahem) personalities who became notorious on the net and then tried to come back.

Pirate Bay Logo (image via TechRadar)

From pirates to…

BitTorrent used to be a byword for movie piracy, but BitTorrent Inc has been making a concerted effort to go straight. BitTorrent Bundles, which combine free and protected content, have been used by Madonna, Eddie Izzard, De La Soul and Public Enemy to promote their work.

The protected content is unlocked when users provide an email address, but soon BitTorrent Bundles will offer content that is unlocked in exchange for money, with BitTorrent taking a cut of the proceeds.

Kim Dotcom
You might want to wait until has more albums than just Dotcom’s not-so-good Good Times

The shy, retiring Mr Dotcom is the copyright industries‘ public enemy number one: his file sharing website, Megaupload, was shut down by the US Department of Justice in 2012, and he’s currently being sued by six Hollywood film studios and facing possible extradition to the US.

Undeterred, Dotcom is planning to launch a legitimate music streaming service,, later this year. Until the formal launch there’s only one album on it: Dotcom’s own (bloody awful) Good Times

Ashley Madison is the kind of website you’d expect to see advertised in the darker corners of the web: it’s a dating site set up specifically for people who want to cheat on their partners. However, through a combination of high-profile advertising, affiliate marketing and PR stunts, the site has become part of the mainstream: it boasts more than 21 million members in 30 countries.

Napster still provides music to its users, but now it does so legally

Napster and its imitators destroyed the music business as we knew it: the lure of free music and the infinitesimal risk of getting caught meant an entire generation stopped paying for tunes. At its peak it had over 80 million users. Years of litigation finally killed the service in 2001, but the name and logo live on: today it’s a Spotify-style subscription music service.

Kazaa was a blatant attempt to mimic Napster without falling foul of the same legal problems that killed the file-sharing pioneer, but that didn’t stop the music business from suing it silly. Like Napster it went on to become a legal subscription service, but unlike Napster it didn’t survive. Its earliest backers did though, and Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis went on to create Skype and Joost.

Pirate Bay
Forget surfing the web, TPB sails the illegal high seas

Anyone who thinks The Pirate Bay wasn’t largely based on piracy is rather naïve. If all those torrent users were really sharing Linux distributions, Linux would be the most popular consumer OS on earth – but TPB did try a number of things to clean up its act, such as The Promo Bay.

The Promo Bay showcased up-and-coming bands that were quite happy for people to torrent their stuff, but even though it was moved to a separate domain it still ended up blocked by UK ISPs. That blocking was removed in late 2012 and UK internet users can now access The Promo Bay, but not its piratey parent (well, not easily).

Craigslist didn’t start off as an online bad guy: the listings service began as a way to publicise local events and became a cheap and cheerful home for classified ads. Unfortunately the more adult ads caused controversy, with Craigslist accused of facilitating prostitution and even sex trafficking. In 2009 Craigslist decided to clean up its listings and binned the adult services categories in the US and Canada.

Here’s yet another music poacher turned gamekeeper: a Kazaa-style peer-to-peer service that is now 100% RIAA-approved. It still does file sharing but content is limited to its database of 15 million approved songs and videos.

You know you’ve crossed into the realm of respectability when the BBC lets you push its content

The BitTorrent client formerly known as Azureus was one of the world’s most popular BitTorrent programmes, but since version 3 it’s been pushing legal content from partners including the BBC and Showtime. Vuze is adamant that its users shouldn’t use illegal torrents.

Some technologies get a bad rap, and that’s definitely the case with Tor. Despite coming from military-sponsored research and helping activists avoid censorship and surveillance in the world’s scarier places, the privacy-protecting service is widely believed to be a tool for criminals.

According to the UK Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre last year, as reported in the Independent, 5,000 of the estimated 15,000 Tor users in the UK were using it for criminal purposes such as buying drugs and sharing illegal images.

Privacy activists are attempting to repair Tor’s reputation: the Electronic Frontier Foundation published „7 things you should know about Tor“ this week and argues that everybody should be using it. You should be aware, however, that using it may put you on the NSA’s watch list.

YouTube now provides a respectable and engaging platform for copyright holders

In 2007, YouTube’s future wasn’t looking too rosy: media giant Viacom was suing its new owner, Google, for $1 billion in damages for alleged copyright infringement. Viacom had a point: as the Wall Street Journal reported back in 2006, many of the top-viewed videos on the site involved „some type of copyright infringement“. These days, of course, YouTube generates huge amounts of cash for copyright owners.

Christopher Poole, aka moot, is best known as the creator of controversial image board 4Chan, but in 2011 he amassed a reported $625,000 in funding to create a new online service called Canvas. The site was described as a PG-rated 4Chan, a place to create and share memes using its built-in image sharing tools. Canvas spawned DrawQuest, an online illustration app, but Poole ran out of money and closed both sites earlier this year.

Facebook Oculus
Hot or Not: Zuckerberg wearing a photoshopped Oculus Rift headset

Facemash was Hot or Not for Harvard students. „I almost want to put some of these faces next to pictures of some farm animals and have people vote on which is more attractive,“ wrote its creator, adding later „I’m a jerk for creating this site.“ The site was shut down and accused of copyright violation, breaching security and violating people’s privacy, but its creator, Mark Zuckerberg, went on to invent Facebook.

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Chrome plug-in gives Facebook users power to manipulate News Feed emotions

04.07.2014, 9:38

Perform Facebook's psych experiment on yourself

If you’re wondering what it would have been like for those 689,000 guinea pigs who had their emotions manipulated by that controversial Facebook News Feed experiment? Well now you can. Sort of.

Facebook Screenshot (image via TechRadar)

Pull a “Zuckerberg” on yourself!

With more than a hint of sarcasm, one developer has built a FB Mood Manipulator plug-in for the Google Chrome web browser, allowing users to select which emotions they see reflected within status updates.

Using a progressive slider, users choose to see more or less Positive, Emotional, Aggressive and Open posts, with the News Feed automatically updating to account for words that fit the parameters.

Those four emotions were used by Facebook in its emotional contagion study, which found users posted more positively or negatively when exposed to similar emotions within their News Feeds.

„Why should Zuckerberg get to decide how you feel? Take back control. Leverage Facebook’s own research to manipulate your emotions on your terms,“ writes New York-based developer Lauren McCarthy.

Of course, we took the Mood Manipulator for a quick spin. Requesting more positive emotions summoned happy posts with works like; outstanding, phenomenal, rock, rule, proud, fun, sun, lovely, great and love.

Now we feel all warm inside, although that could be the faulty air conditioning inside this Starbucks.

Regardless, the Mood Manipulator seems like a viable way of getting rid of those Negative Nancys clogging up the News Feed on those days you need a little more sunshine in your life. Give it a spin and let us know your thoughts below.

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