Why it matters: Do you, like most people, rarely get around to deleting old WhatsApp conversations? If so, this should make life easier: the world’s most popular chat app is introducing a new feature later this month that will erase messages automatically after seven days.
The 'Disappearing Messages' feature has started rolling out today on Android, iOS, and Linux-based KaiOS devices, as well as WhatsApp’s Web and Desktop incarnations. The option can be enabled by either person within individual chats, and group admins can enable it in group chats.
There’s no way to change the length of time before the messages are scrubbed; WhatsApp says seven days is ideal for ephemeral content.
“We’re starting with 7 days because we think it offers peace of mind that conversations aren’t permanent, while remaining practical so you don’t forget what you were chatting about,” wrote the company. “The shopping list or store address you received a few days ago will be there while you need it, and then disappear after you don’t.”
“While it’s great to hold on to memories from friends and family, most of what we send doesn’t need to be everlasting. Our goal is to make conversations on WhatsApp feel as close to in-person as possible, which means they shouldn’t have to stick around forever.”
The feature will also wipe out any photos and videos from the conversation along with the text. It’s worth noting that the person you’re chatting with could still take screenshots of, or forward, any conversations before they vanish. And it won’t affect older messages, only new ones after it’s been enabled by either party.
On Android, the feature can be enabled by going to a contact’s name, tapping Disappearing messages, hitting continue if prompted, then selecting On.
You can read more about disappearing messages on WhatsApp’s support page.