Good news for WhatsApp users who might want to keep their chat history a bit less permanent: the company announced a new “disappearing messages feature,” which will start rolling out to its more than one billion iOS and Android customers worldwide starting today.
The feature allows WhatsAppers in a one-on-one conversation to set any new messages to automatically disappear after seven days. For group chats, that group’s admin will have control over whether or not to set those messages to stick around forever, or to be erased after that one-week period.
“While it’s great to hold onto memories from friends and family, most of what we send doesn’t need to be everlasting,” a spokesperson wrote in the corporate blog post announcing the new feature. “Our goal is make conversations on WhatsApp feel as close to in-person as possible, which means they shouldn’t have to stick around forever.”
It’s worth noting here that these messages will end up deleted whether or not the person on the other end reads them or not, the company explained, and that includes any media—like photos and videos—sent under that same timer. WhatsApp added that messages in these chats can still be screenshotted or forwarded, which means they might end up floating around even after they’re past that seven-day limit.
A number of messaging apps either come baked in with, or have gone on to add, similar self-destruct features. Most give users some flexibility as to how long messages should stick around—down to as little as five seconds on Signal. According to Techcrunch, it Whataspp might also be toying around with a timer that might be a smidge shorter—or longer—than its current one-size-fits-all approach. A spokesperson told them that the company “will keep an eye on feedback,” and see if it needs adjusting in the future.
“For now we are starting with seven days, because it feels like a nice balance between the utility you need for global text based conversations and the feeling of things not sticking around forever,” they said.