WhatsApp’s Disappearing Messages feature detailed in a FAQ document

WhatsApp’s Disappearing Messages feature detailed in a FAQ document
WhatsApp has been working on a self-destructing messages feature for quite some time. It will allow users to set a timer on a message and after it runs out the message will automatically disappear. Other messaging services like Snapchat and Telegram employ such a feature but WhatsApp is yet to roll it out officially. The company tested the feature in WhatsApp beta for Android last year but the official release is still pending.

Now the guys at WABetaInfo have spotted a FAQ document that describes the upcoming feature in much more detail. Apparently, the default period of this feature is seven days. It’s unclear whether users will be able to set a custom timeframe for the Disappearing Messages feature at this point. When the feature is enabled, all new messages will expire after seven days. There are some caveats, however:

  • If a user doesn’t open WhatsApp in the seven day period, the message will disappear. However, the preview of the message might still be displayed in notifications until WhatsApp is opened.
  • When you reply to a message, the initial message is quoted. If you reply to a disappearing message, the quoted text might remain in the chat after seven days.
  • If a disappearing message is forwarded to a chat with disappearing messages off, the message won’t disappear in the forwarded chat.
  • If a user creates a backup before a message disappears, the disappearing message will be included in the backup. Disappearing messages will be deleted when a user restores from a backup.

All the above caveats make the feature somewhat unreliable when it comes to sensitive information. WhatsApp issues a warning, confirming that the feature is not meant to be a Holy Grail of secure communication. “Only use disappearing messages with trusted individuals,” reads the warning message in the FAQ document.

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The Disappearing Messages feature will work with media files but if the recipient has auto-download turned on (it’s on by default), the files will disappear from the chat but will be downloaded to the phone. The Disappearing Messages feature will be available for Android, iOS, KaiOS, Web, and Desktop users but the exact rollout schedule remains unknown.
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