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WhatsApp update: the small change you need to know about

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Hollie Richardson
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Here’s everything we know about WhatsApp’s new “disappearing messages” feature that will be rolled out by the end of November.

From sending 8-minute voice notes to a long-distance friend you’ve not seen since last year, to catching up with the 753 new messages in your family group chat, WhatsApp has been a great way of communicating with people throughout lockdown

In fact, even without the pandemic, most of us check the app roughly 50 times a day, right? Checking it has just become a regular part of our daily lives, a bit like drinking tea. That probably helps explain why the Facebook-owned app has 2 billion users worldwide

So it’s likely that most people reading this want to know the intriguing change being made to the app under the new update by the end of November.

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WhatsApp is introducing a “disappearing messages” option that will erase chats from the phone of both the sender and recipient after seven days.

On the WhatsApp blog, the company stated: “When disappearing messages is turned on, new messages sent to a chat will disappear after seven days, helping the conversation feel lighter and more private. In a one-to-one chat, either person can turn disappearing messages on or off. In groups, admins will have the control.

“We’re starting with seven days because we think it offers peace of mind that conversations aren’t permanent, while remaining practical so you don’t forget what you were chatting about. The shopping list or store address you received a few days ago will be there while you need it, and then disappear after you don’t.”

A woman on her phone
WhatsApp is making this change under its new update.

The aim here is to provide more privacy. It comes a year after Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg pledged to make several changes to the social network to offer users more privacy. One of his proposed changes was offering more “ephemeral” ways to share content, including disappearing messages.

But we have questions about the new feature.

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Even if you opt-in for the “disappearing messages” feature, recipients will still be able to screenshot or forward any messages, photos or videos that they wanted to keep. And, let’s be honest, most of us have whole image libraries on our phone stocked with screenshots of conversations. So, what’s the point in this update?

Also, you can currently delete a message for both the sender and recipient at any point. So if you do want to make sure your address or personals are deleted, you can already do that. So, again, what’s the point of the update? 

People on Twitter share this confusion.

“This is low key pointless.” asserted one frustrated WhatsApp user. “Please add a feature where if I mute and archive a chat, I don’t see the notifications at all until I dig it out of the archived chats.”

“All this yet you can’t left a WhatsApp group quietly,” added another user (and it’s a very good point).

“Disappearing messages are so pointless honestly,” concluded a third.

Of course, online privacy and protection is the key here, so they must be onto something. And a spokesperson has said in a statement that they will be reviewing feedback of the feature, saying: “We will keep an eye on feedback about how people are using it and liking it and see if it needs adjusting in the future.”

Maybe it’s the disappearing act we’ll all soon be doing after all. 

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…