Facebook is introducing a new feature to WhatsApp that will make it resemble the instant messaging service Snapchat, apparently in a push for more privacy.
Snapchat must surely be one of the most influential social media channels out there. Following the widespread adoption of “Stories” (posts which self-delete after 24 hours), it seems that WhatsApp is poised to copy even more pages from its classmate’s homework with the newly-announced View Once feature.
The introduction of this new option will give users the choice of sending photos or videos that disappear from the chat after they have been seen by the recipient. According to parent company Facebook, this confers two advantages; firstly, media files won’t take up as much space on your phone, and secondly, users will have more privacy as outgoing media will not be accessible forever — especially useful if you’re using the tool to send sensitive data such as a Wi-Fi password.
If the content is not viewed after 14 days, then it will expire; but if you restore your chats from back-up data at any time during that period, then unopened media will be restored too.
The video above shows how the feature will work in action, and it seems to be a very simple process. Once the file is ready to send, simply take small icon depicting the number 1 inside a ticking clock before pressing the Send button, and this will allow you to share a piece of media under the View Once conditions. After the recipient has viewed it, the message is replied by a time-stamped speech bubble that simply reads “Opened”.
Of course, no system like this is perfect, and Facebook have acknowledged potential flaws to the supposedly enhanced privacy of View Once; the recipient can take a screenshot or screen recording of the sent media for instance, and unlike with Snapchat you will not receive a notification if they do.
The update was first rolled out on August 3, so you may already have access to the new feature; if not, keep checking for app updates via the Play Store or the App Store if you’re using an Android or Apple device respectively.