WhatsApp's latest feature scrubs old unwanted messages automatically

WhatsApp has announced a big new feature that is already available on a number of other platforms: disappearing messages. With this feature, users can ensure their messages will automatically disappear after a predetermined amount of time. WhatApp's disappearing messages have a big limitation at this moment compared to platforms like Wickr, but it's better than nothing.

Disappearing messages are exactly what they sound like: messages that WhatsApp will automatically delete after a set amount of time — seven days, in this case — to keep one's chat history clean and free of clutter. The obvious benefit is that users aren't required to manually delete messages or entire chat logs.

The WhatsApp team says it introduced this feature to make chats 'feel as close to in-person as possible' — which is to say, the stuff you said days ago won't live on forever. The company says that it is 'starting with' a seven-day timeframe for disappearing messages, indicating that it may offer more options in the future.

Until then, users aren't given the option to control how long the messages stick around — a minor annoyance, but perhaps a dealbreaker for those still using other apps offering more privacy controls. The feature is not turned on by default, but it's simple to enable disappearing messages in WhatsApp.

As the company explained in a blog post on Thursday, the disappearing messages feature can be turned on by selecting the contact's name in the app and then tapping the 'Disappearing messages' option. Of course, turning on disappearing messages doesn't prevent someone from taking a screenshot of the messages before they're deleted.