I stumbled across Bottled by accident, and at its core, it's a communication app - though it could be used for dating, too. The adverts might be a little sleazy here and there, but that's down to a slight identity crisis. While the app could be used for nefarious purposes, in my time with it I've found that the userbase is made up of people who wouldn't dream of spreading negativity or trolling. But what is the app? And what does it actually do?
Opening Bottled for the first time, you're asked if you want to be a sailor, a treasure hunter, or a pirate. Choosing sailor means you want to make friends and discover new cultures. A treasure hunter is “roaming the oceans searching for the rare gem, your special someone” and a pirate is using the app for fun, “not knowing what they're looking for, but always has good intentions”. I chose sailor and began using the app as if it was a game.
The main screen shows an image of a desert island in the ocean, a figure leans back against a solitary palm tree. Occasionally treasure chests wash up to the shore which contain bottles of rum, which can then be emptied and used to send a message into the world. You can write what you want in the message. Swipe the screen, sending the bottle into the waves, and your message is delivered to a random person with the app installed. It doesn't take long for your reputation to rise, and then bottles start to wash up alongside the chests.
Some people just say 'Hi', one person was trying to sell their eBook on Amazon, several users sent out inspirational quotes, another set me a writing prompt. One Russian man sent me a message saying he had consumed thousands of calories at McDonalds for a bet. Once you keep the bottle, or the user keeps yours, you can then message each other privately and the country they reside in gets checked off on a list. It wasn't long and I was collecting users like Pokemon, and their home countries as gym badges.
I asked people whether they'd rather fight a horse-sized duck or fifty duck-sized horses. Everyone who received the message in the bottle replied with their answer. This was over a week ago and I'm still chatting to many of them daily. Keeping bottles rewards you with golden coins which can be used to buy equipment - a telescope lets you zoom into user pictures, a compass allows you to target a country of your choosing, and an octopus sends one message to eight separate people.
Bottled is a humorous little app with good intentions, but it has a serious side. Some messages are from users who are lonely and just want someone to talk to. Some are unhappy and are looking for friends. As with any app like this, caution should be used - not everyone has good intentions. You can block users or reject bottles, sending them on to others, but it would be good to see higher security to protect users.
So far, my messages have reached 69 countries and I've spoken to around 80 different users. Some conversations last a couple of interactions, a select few people have become friends who I speak to every day about hobbies and interests. With the right attitude, this app can be a lifeline, a tool to build confidence, or just a way to ask strangers daft questions about fighting oversized or undersized animals.