Bubblegum is a new app from two Microsoft employees, Sriram Krishnan (Program Manager for Microsoft’s Windows Azure; also of Browser Plus fame) and Aarthi Ramamurthy (Program Manager for Microsoft’s XNA) which, though we hate to make comparisons, is an Instagram clone. Instagram, for those who don't know, is a very popular photo sharing app/site for the iPhone that allows you share pics with your friends, add effects to the photo and even see it on a map.

While we don't have Instagram on WP7, Bubblegum seeks to fill that gap by offering basically those same features. But with the launch of Flickr for Windows Phone literally on the same day as Bubblegum's, we have to ask, is it necessary? At first blush (and on paper), the answer is no.

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But then something happened: we downloaded and tried it. And truth be told, it's an exceptional experience. Smooth transitions, excellent graphics and superb integration with Twitter, Foursqaure and Facebook make it quite compelling and tough to ignore. How it works is you sign up for an account (on the phone, it's very quick) which then logs you in to the network. From there you can add friends (manually search for their name or tap into your Twitter/Facebook contacts). It's that latter part that's really neat: you type in your login info for Facebook or Twitter and it finds just those contacts who are also on Bubblegum (for me it was Manan and Microsoft's Charlie Kindel)--you can then follow them to see their photo uploads in your stream. As for effects, you have Black&White, Woodstock, Frosty, Grunge, Tilt Shift, Cyano, Aurora, History (sepia), Betty (it's better than butter).

The whole thing is like Twitter but without the drama. It's focused on the visual instead of the text.

Oh and there's a Yoda quote in there, which totally wins nerd points. The two developers responsible are a husband and wife team who have a geeky sense of humor and it just gives this app feeling of fun. Sure, in our social-networked lives with 900 services, it's not clear we need another, but Bubblegum at least makes the argument for one more. The app is free in the Marketplace here and we urge you to just take it for a spin--it could be our own homespun next-big-thing on Windows Phone.

ps I'm listed as "malatesta" on there.

via: @ckindel; additional info: MobileCrunch