WhatsApp disappearing messages can now be your default

For some time now, WhatsApp users have had disappearing messages at their disposal. These do what they say on the tin, making chats disappear after a set amount of time to erase the record of conversations that should be kept private. WhatsApp today is giving users more control over how they use disappearing messages, giving users the option of turning them on by default.

New options for WhatsApp disappearing messages

By default, disappearing messages have to be turned on for each chat, but that's changing with this update to WhatsApp. Now, users will be able to turn on disappearing messages by default, which means that all one-on-one chats you create with others will automatically disappear after a set amount of time.

It sounds like this new setting won't apply to group messages, as WhatsApp says that users will have the option to turn on disappearing messages when creating new group chats. This feature also won't change existing chats that don't have disappearing messages turned on, so you don't have to worry about opting in and having all of your old conversations disappear after certain periods of time.

Users will also have the options of turning disappearing messages off for certain chats, so you're not exactly locked into your choice if you have discussions with useful messages you'd like to keep around for an indefinite amount of time. In addition, those who you chat with will see an alert at the beginning of the conversation that tells them you've turned on disappearing messages by default, so they won't be taken by surprise when messages start vanishing.

As for when messages begin disappearing, that's now up to users as well. Initially, the disappearing messages feature would make messages self-destruct after seven days, but WhatsApp has added a 24 hour and 90 days option with this update. While those add more flexibility, we'd like to see more options in between the seven days and 90 days options, and perhaps even more beyond 90 days for true flexibility.

Why should you turn on disappearing messages?

Disappearing messages might feel like overkill for some WhatsApp users, considering that the app already offers end-to-end encryption for chats through WhatsApp Messenger. While it's true that end-to-end encryption does add a layer of security to your chats, it's also worth remembering that those messages will still be viewable on devices owned by chat participants.

So, should one of those devices get lost or stolen, whoever possesses it could view the chats in question, assuming they can access the ill-gotten device. It may seem like a rare thing that won't happen to you, but if you share sensitive data in your chats, there's no such thing as being too safe. After all, the time to secure your data is before a big accident happens, not after.

As WhatsApp points out in today's announcement, the disappearing messages feature is also good for those who don't want what they've said to be sitting in chats for years after the fact. Most of us probably don't benefit from those chat transcripts dating back years anyway, so using this feature and making disappearing messages the default might not be a bad idea. The update is available in WhatsApp today, and you can find it by navigating to your privacy settings and finding the "Default Message Timer" option.