Facebook is testing the waters of ephemeral messaging. Users in France have noticed a new feature within the social network's Messenger app that lets you set a message to self-destruct after one hour. The test, first noticed by BuzzFeed today, is currently limited to users in France, but Facebook says it may roll out the feature in its testing phase to other countries down the line. Facebook confirmed the test to The Verge, saying it can be turned on for any conversation by tapping an hourglass icon in the top right. It only effects that one conversation, not every thread in Messenger, and it can be turned off at any time.
Disappearing conversations would put Facebook head to head against messaging rival Snapchat. The Venice, California startup helmed by CEO Evan Spiegel used that hallmark feature of its mobile app to accumulate a user of base of more than 100 million daily users, $1.2 billion in funding, and a $16 billion valuation. Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg once tried to convince Spiegel to sell Snapchat, but the 25-year-old CEO reportedly declined the $3 billion offer in the fall of 2013.
Snapchat once declined a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook
Recently, Snapchat has tried to be more than just a platform for disappearing messages. Its now courting cable channel brands like Comedy Central to bring original bite-sized programming to its Discover tab. Snapchat is also inking deals with Hollywood studios — like it did recently for the James Bond film Spectre — to offer behind-the-scenes shots. That said, Snapchat's ephemeral messages remain a core pillar of its enduring popularity, making Facebook's move a valid threat.
Update at 2:15PM, Thursday, November 12: Added comment from Facebook.