Facebook is following in the footsteps of Snapchat by testing a self-destructing message feature in its standalone Facebook Messenger app. The test is currently limited to some users in France, giving them the option to send messages to contacts that are timed to vanish after one hour.
“We’re excited to announce the latest in an engaging line of optional product features geared towards making Messenger the best way to communicate with the people that matter most,” wrote a Facebook spokeswoman in a statement. “Starting today, we’re conducting a small test in France of a feature that allows people to send messages that disappear an hour after they’re sent. Disappearing messages gives people another fun option to choose from when they communicate on Messenger. We look forward to hearing people’s feedback as they give it a try.”
Facebook may roll out the feature in its testing phase to other countries at a later date. The company confirmed to The Verge that it can be activated by selecting an hourglass symbol in the top right of the screen. It will only apply to that one conversation, not all threads in Messenger, and can be turned off at any time.
While this type of ephemeral messaging is most commonly associated with Snapchat - a company that Mark Zuckerberg tried to purchase for $3 billion in 2013 – there are several other messaging apps that also use it. The 211 million users of Japan-based messenger app Line have access to a feature that encrypts messages and deletes them within a set period of time. And WeChat - the messaging service from Chinese company Tencent that boasts half a billion users - last year introduced an option that allows people to recall the last message they sent within two minutes.
Disappearing messages have proved popular on the other chat apps that use them and it’s highly likely that Facebook’s feature will be well-received by those testing it. Don’t be surprised if this ephemeral option quickly rolls out worldwide and soon becomes available to everyone who uses Messenger.