06 November 2020

WhatsApp Blog: “Introducing disappearing messages on WhatsApp”

Our goal is make conversations on WhatsApp feel as close to in-person as possible, which means they shouldn't have to stick around forever. That’s why we’re excited to introduce the option to use disappearing messages on WhatsApp.

When disappearing messages is turned on, new messages sent to a chat will disappear after 7 days, helping the conversation feel lighter and more private. In a one-to-one chat, either person can turn disappearing messages on or off. In groups, admins will have the control.

WhatsApp Blog

Interesting feature, but I personally don’t see its utility. I actually like having an archive of my past conversations – with the caveat that it’s available only on smartphones and nearly impossible to migrate between Android and iOS. It would make more sense for Facebook status updates to disappear after a while, or to become private, to prevent others from snooping around through old updates. On some level this is the role Stories are supposed to play on the Facebook platform, but I rarely feel it’s worth the effort to send an update that will simply vanish in 24 hours.

apparently Facebook Messenger had this feature for some time, as part of secret conversations.

Introducing disappearing messages on WhatsApp

As with encryption, self-destructing messages are a double-edged sword: in authoritarian countries it helps people communicate more freely without the government spying on them, but it also prevents legitimate law enforcement from gathering information from drug and sex traffickers and other people breaking the law. And I fear the feature will fuel disinformation, because it’s possible to forward disappearing messages, thereby spreading fake and misleading claims while hiding their true origins.

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