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WhatsApp disappearing messages getting big upgrade — what you need to know

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(Image credit: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

WhatsApp is looking to make it easier for users to turn on disappearing messages for their conversations according to a new report. Currently, if you want to use messages that vanish after seven days you need to turn this setting on for each conversation you have. It’s applied per user, not as a blanket setting. 

However, WhatsApp is making changes to this feature in an upcoming version. Instead users will be able to apply the setting for all chats, no matter where they come from. Once switched on, new chats will be able to expire after a predetermined length of time. It’s not clear if this will still be the existing seven day window, or if there will be more control over how long messages stay alive for. 

The information comes from the reliable WABetaInfo, which has uncovered the potential new feature coming to the Facebook-owned chat app. As usual, these features are often included in test versions of the software, but may or may not make it into the live service at some point in the future. 

As with all forms of disappearing messages, these provide only modest security. People are still able to retain any media you send them and forwarding messages or screenshots will allow you to keep copies even with this setting turned on. Ultimately, it’s not entirely useful for deleting past conversations, although it may be handy if you’re just keen to police the volume of chats you have stored on your phone. 

Signal, which is considered to be one of the more secure mass-market apps, already offers more control over the duration messages are kept. However Signal’s settings for disappearing messages is also set on a per-user basis, with no global option to ensure that all chats expire after a set period of time. 

However, with many people frustrated by WhatsApp's new terms and conditions and privacy policy, having features ready to go in alternative apps is good news in general. As Facebook tightens the screws on WhatsApp, it’s possible users will continue to move their chats away and start with another service.

A tech journalist with many years of experience, Ian got his start writing about the battle between HD DVD and Blu-ray. Technology might have moved on, but there's still plenty of skirmishes to report on.