The new options will allow people to turn on disappearing messages for all their chats at once, meaning that no conversations will stick around any longer than they need to.
Users can also choose from a variety of options for how long messages should last. Previously, they were limited to seven days – but that can now be set at 24 hours or 90 days, after which the conversations will be destroyed.
WhatsApp’s bosses have previously said that the aim is to have all messages delete themselves by default, in keeping with an aim to ensure that conversations can’t be spied on and are kept int he moment.
The change was made to give people the “freedom to be honest and vulnerable, knowing that conversation isn’t being recorded and stored somewhere forever”, it said in a blog post. The current default of storing all conversations forever are “the equivalent of a note taker following us around making a permanent record of everything we’ve said”, it said.
If the option of having disappearing messages by default is selected, then all new one-on-one chats – whether created by you or another person – will disappear after the chosen time has elapsed. It can also be switched on for any groups that are created.
If a conversation is started with someone who has the feature turned on by default, a message will be shown indicating what they have chosen. “This makes clear it’s nothing personal – it’s a choice you’ve made about how you want to communicate with everyone on WhatsApp moving forward,” WhatsApp said in an announcement.
Any particular conversation can be made permanent if required, and the new settings will not make changes to any existing chats.
“Living apart from family and friends for over a year has made it clearer than ever that just because we can’t physically talk in person, it doesn’t mean we should have to sacrifice the privacy of our personal conversations,” WhatsApp said. “We believe disappearing messages along with end-to-end encryption are two crucial features that define what it means to be a private messaging service today, and bring us one step closer to the feeling of an in-personal conversation.”
Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of WhatsApp parent company Meta, which was formerly named Facebook, posted a similar message on his public account.
““We’re rolling out a new disappearing messages option on WhatsApp today so you’ll be able to make all new chats disappearing by default after 24 hours, 7 days, or 90 days,” he wrote. “Not all messages need to stick around forever.”
The option can be found within the privacy settings, under the “default message timer”.Internet Explorer Channel Network