Facebook has begun the testing phase of ‘vanishing messages’, in a challenge to rival Snapchat.
The new feature means that personal messages do not have to be permanent; they can delete themselves following a set period of time.
When composing a message, an hourglass icon that is present in the top right hand corner of the screen can be turned on or off. When the option is chosen, a message will disappear from the user’s conversation after sixty minutes, and anyone included in the conversation can choose this option from within the message thread.
It’s not the first time that Facebook has turned its attention to Snapchat. In 2012, the company trialled Poke, which allowed users to send picture and video messages that were destroyed seconds after they were viewed. However, Poke itself disappeared in the middle of last year.
In a confusing move, Facebook followed up with a similar app named Slingshot, but this was removed from app stores within hours after being proclaimed a “mistake”.
The feature is currently only available to users in France, and it’s not known if the trial will take place in any other territories. A statement from the company said:
“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.
“Disappearing messages gives people another fun option to choose from when they communicate on Messenger.”
Current figures estimate Snapchat’s user base at around 100 million people, and it claims that its daily video traffic now stands at six billion views. In comparison, Facebook’s is around eight billion.
It was reported in 2014 that Facebook attempted to purchase Snapchat for a rumoured fee of £1.9 billion, but the offer turned was turned down by the start-up.