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.
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’s founders compared this new feature 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.