WhatsApp is testing ‘disappearing’ messages - here’s how they work

WhatsApp is one of the biggest messaging apps in the world, with around 1.6 billion users accessing the app on a monthly basis.

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Now, WhatsApp is planning a new ‘disappearing message’ feature - but how will it work?

Message disappears after 7 days

In the FAQ section of the WhatsApp website, the tech company went into more detail.

“You can send messages that disappear on WhatsApp by enabling disappearing messages,” it explained.

Once enabled, new messages sent in an individual or group chat thread will disappear after seven days. However, there are a number of ways that a disappearing message may remain viewable.

If a user doesn’t open WhatsApp in the seven day period, the message will still disappear - however, the preview of the message may continue to be displayed in notifications until WhatsApp is opened.

When you reply to a message, the initial message that you are replying to is quoted - if you reply to a disappearing message, the quoted text could still remain in the chat after seven days.

If a disappearing message is forwarded to a chat with the disappearing message option turned off, the message won’t disappear in the chat it’s been forwarded into.

If a user creates a backup of the chat before the message disappears, the disappearing message will be included in the backup. Disappearing messages will be deleted when a user restores from a backup.

WhatsApp also says to only use disappearing messages with trusted individuals, because it’s possible that they could:

  • forward or take a screenshot of the disappearing message and save it before it disappears
  • copy and save content from the disappearing message before it disappears
  • take a photo of the disappearing message with a camera or other device before it disappears

Photos and videos in disappearing messages

By default, the media (like videos and photos) you receive in WhatsApp is automatically downloaded onto your device.

If disappearing messages are turned on, media sent in the chat will disappear, but will be saved on the recipient's device if auto download is on.

You can turn auto download off in WhatsApp settings by going to the ‘Data and Storage Usage’ section.

How to turn disappearing messages on

While the disappearing messages feature isn’t available yet for the majority of users, WhatsApp has revealed how you will be able to turn it on and off.

Simply open your WhatsApp chat thread, tap on the contact or group name, then select disappearing messages. If prompted, tap ‘continue’ and then select ‘on’.

WhatsApp says that in an individual chat, users can turn disappearing messages on or off, but in a group chat, only the group admins can turn disappearing messages on or off.

When will it be available?

A WhatsApp spokesperson told Business Insider that a small number of users are testing out the feature.

The hope is that the new feature will roll out globally shortly.