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WhatsApp is testing vanishing text messages on iPhone. The feature surfaced in the latest update sent out to beta testers. Until now, the new feature – a big twist on messaging on the platform – was only available on Android.
After the beta testers give the thumbs up, WhatsApp will bundle the new feature into an update for iPhone and Android users worldwide. WhatsApp, which is owned by Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, is the most popular messaging service on the planet with more than two billion users. As such, it tends to proceed slowly when introducing new functionality.
The latest arrival would allow WhatsApp users to send a photograph or video clip that vanishes as soon as it has been viewed. After that, it will be impossible for recipients to bring back the photo or video.
While WhatsApp already offers disappearing messages, these delete themselves after seven days. Of course, it’s also possible to delete a text message, photo or video from a chat after it has been viewed by long-pressing on the message and choosing the “Delete For Everyone” option. However, WhatsApp only allows users one hour after the initial message was sent to request that it be deleted.
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It’s also worth remembering that recipients using WhatsApp on iOS may still have media you sent saved to their Photos, even after the message is deleted from the WhatsApp chat. And there’s no guarantee that the intended recipient ever saw the message before it was removed, replaced with a small notification in the chat stating: “This message was deleted”. If you’re sending a photo to a busy group chat – some users might have close to an hour to check out the text, while others might miss it.
That’s one scenario that WhatsApp’s new vanishing messages will fix. As the sender, you’ll be notified when your photo or video has been viewed and automatically deleted from the conversation.
“Send photos and videos that can only be viewed once,” a pop-up introducing the new feature in the latest beta on iPhone announces, “For more privacy, your photo or video will disappear from the chat after the recipient opens it once. Remember, people can always take screenshots.”
Snapchat, which pioneered this type of ephemeral messaging, sends the sender a warning when the recipient has taken a screenshot of a temporary picture within its app. It seems WhatsApp won’t offer the same protection, but it’s nice that it’s warning users about the possibility that their vanishing pictures and videos don’t disappear as completely as they’d like.
WhatsApp has really pushed its privacy features in recent months. In a new advertising campaign that spans print media, online, and television commercials, the Facebook-owned platform is highlighting its end-to-end encryption. We’ll have to see whether the ability to send vanishing messages makes it into a future advert.
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