After making Facebook Messenger a strong competitor to Google Hangouts, the social network appears set to rival Snapchat by introducing a feature for self-destructing messages. The feature, currently in its beta stage, is being tested in France.
In a statement to BuzzFeed, a Facebook spokesperson revealed the testing of self-destructing messages on the Messenger app. The spokesperson said the feature was designed just to give users a "fun option to choose" when they communicate with their friends on Messenger. "Starting today, we're conducting a small test in France of a feature that allows people to send messages that disappear an hour after they're sent," the spokesperson said.
"Disappearing messages gives people another fun option to choose from when they communicate on Messenger. We look forward to hearing people's feedback as they give it a try."
Snapchat is already quite popular for its ephemeral messaging feature that allows users to send self-destructing messages to their friends that expire in a short span of time. Although Facebook's Creative Labs developed the Slingshot app as an alternative to Snapchat, it didn't receive any remarkable response from the app market. The Mark Zuckerberg-led company had even offered over $3bn to Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel, but he refused to sell.
Facebook then embarked on a project to add the same functionality to its existing Messenger app which already has over 700 million users worldwide. To offer self-destructing messages, Facebook has added an hourglass icon to the Messenger app. Users just need to tap the hourglass icon to make the messages disappear after an hour. If one wants to make the messages appear on the threads, a single tap on the icon disables the new feature.
The Facebook Messenger app is not the only messaging app with a Snapchat-like feature. Similar features were previously added to some Asian apps including Line and WeChat. Moreover, ephemeral or self-destructing messaging experience would soon become a common feature across all messaging apps as it provides an easy way to senders and receivers to remove evidence of their common conversations. This would, however, make the messaging apps more or less an unreliable source of conversation.
Facebook has not yet revealed details about when the new messaging feature would be available for all Messenger users.