Facebook is considering a new feature so that not every message your send on its Messenger app will live forever.
On Monday, screenshots revealed a potential version of Facebook Messenger on iOS where users can set a time-limit for their messages to remain visible after being sent. According to the screenshots, Messenger users will have the option to enable disappearing messages on the iOS app and set a time-limit for the messages to disappear after one minute, after 15 minutes, after one hour, after four hours, or after a day. The screenshots were posted on Twitter by @iOSAppChanges and were picked up by VentureBeat.
#Messenger disappearing messages feature (68.0 iOS version) @WABetaInfo pic.twitter.com/dPSCyuNeoF— iOSAppChanges (@iOSAppChanges) May 1, 2016
More screenshots about disappearing messages (and shared links section). Thanks @Geek_Break. @WABetaInfo #Messenger pic.twitter.com/MDWjsqdhID— iOSAppChanges (@iOSAppChanges) May 1, 2016
Why this matters: Disappearing messages in mobile apps is not new, of course. The concept was Snapchat’s original modus operandi when the photo-sharing app was first introduced, luring young users who loved the idea that their personal messages wouldn’t follow them for longer than a day, let alone into adulthood.
Most recently, Facebook’s other messaging app, WhatsApp, also got a privacy-boosting feature when it enabled end-to-end encryption for its billion-plus users. WhatsApp founders compared this new feature akin to having a face-to-face conversation: only the intended parties will get to listen in.
If Facebook Messenger does enable disappearing messages in an upcoming iOS update, it will follow a similar strategy—after all, verbal conversations are not typically recorded and archived for the rest of our lives. With the option to forever delete a message after it’s sent, Facebook is giving users more control over their private communications. For the company, it makes it more difficult to be put in a position to have to retrieve these messages if Facebook is ever embroiled in its own Apple/FBI-like battle.