News & Events, Tech

WhatsApp’s new Disappearing Messages come with a twist

They work on a time limit.

words by: Sahar Khraibani
Nov 15, 2020

Disappearing messages have been a staple in modern communication. It started out with Snapchat’s disappearing photos, which allowed a whole new outlook on sharing photos through apps. Very soon after, this feature joined the realm of Instagram Direct Messaging and fully overshadowed its competitor. WhatsApp, the app that has been recently bought by Facebook for $19 billion USD – the company that also happens to own Instagram – will officially let you send disappearing messages now. But there’s a twist: the messages supposedly remain in the chat for seven whole days before disappearing on their own.


WhatsApp has 2 billion users worldwide and all of these users have gained the ability to send messages that will disappear after seven days on both iOS systems and Android alike. The seven-day countdown for disappearing messages will happen whether the message is read or not, and it starts when a message is sent. Users can enable the feature in their direct messages, however, in group chats, the admin has to have the disappearing function turned on in order for the feature to be used.


This feature took a long time to develop because of their end-to-end encryption settings. This is a method of secure communication that prevents third parties from accessing data while it’s transferred from one and system or device to another, making it a significantly huge selling point for WhatsApp users who use the app to communicate internationally without fearing that their data would be accessed.


The only way the disappearing function on WhatsApp works is with the timed limit. WhatsApp’s team is working on a version where expanded possibilities are an option. In a statement shared by a WhatsApp spokesperson, the company will be abreast of the feedback they get from people using the function and see whether it needs adjustment in the future or not.


Even though the disappearing function on WhatsApp has a lot of added value, it still pales in comparison to Instagram’s same feature, and somewhat defeats the purpose of a disappearing message. Having a message remain for seven whole days is not as fast or immediate as we would like it to be. However, this decision was not random: the same WhatsApp spokesperson said that they are starting with seven days because it felt like a good balance between the utility needed for global context-based conversations and the feeling of having things not stick around forever. 


Try it out for yourself and see what you think. This may indeed be a nice balance between the immediacy of a disappearing message and feeling like things don’t have to last forever on our apps.


Photo via WhatsApp