Facebook Messenger is testing out self-destructing messages. Currently available for some users in France, the feature allows people to send messages that vanish in an hour. The social media giant leaks more information, including when the feature will roll out for all users.
While the ephemeral messaging may help Messenger, which claims 700 million users, compete more directly with Snapchat, whereas Facebook reportedly once tried to acquire the app for almost $3 billion, several top messaging apps have already introduced similar features.
For example, Line, which has 211 million users, recently introduced “Hidden Chats,” or encrypted messages that disappear within a set amount of time. WeChat, the most popular messaging app in China with over half a billion users, has allowed people to recall messages since 2014.
The main appeal of ephemeral messages, however, in Facebook Messenger isn’t just about sending sensitive information. Disappearing messages echo real-life conversations, an experience Messenger has sought to duplicate with features like read receipts and its quick selfie cam.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has experimented with ephemeral messaging. In December 2012, just as Snapchat was taking off, Facebook launched Poke, a similar service that sent self-destructing photos and videos. Despite speculation that it would be a Snapchat killer, Facebook Poke failed to gain traction. Since then, Snapchat has gained about 200 million monthly users and built an ecosystem that has gone beyond disappearing photos to include richer features like Live Stories.