Message services such as Snapchat do away with seen messages after a set amount of time to preserve privacy and allow covert communications. Facebook has begun testing a similar feature in France, with a setting that allows messages in individual threads to be destroyed after one hour. An hourglass icon in the top right of the conversation turns the feature on and off with ease, at any time. This comes on the heels of a rejected attempt by Facebook to buy Snapchat, now worth $16 billion, for $3 billion back in 2013. The new Silicon Valley motto seems to be, “If you can’t buy ’em, join ’em.”
Facebook’s new message system is being tested in France only for now, with no word on dates for wider rollouts. At this point, it seems as though this feature is only meant to add value to Facebook’s existing Messenger app and user base, with no plans currently announced to compete directly with Snapchat. Facebook messages on the new system will disappear within an hour; Snapchat messages disappear after viewing. Likewise, while Facebook handles original content in a more mainstream fashion, Snapchat is signing deals left and right for micro-content, behind the scenes videos and other unique media. Obviously, the new addition to Messenger has no such aspirations in its current form.
Snapchat, of course, has most of its value to users in the form of its ephemeral messaging system. Should Facebook’s new function for Messenger manage to ape Snapchat’s main function successfully, it would pose a huge threat to Snapchat’s userbase by drawing in would-be Snapchat users and tapping into Facebook’s colossal installed userbase. The implications of this newest function are no threat to Snapchat or others of its ilk for now, but it could certainly evolve into a brand new media platform for the California juggernaut.
To say that Snapchat, the main player in the field, would be in trouble if Facebook stole the app’s main function is an understatement. It’ll be interesting to see how this newest saga plays out, whether Facebook plans to ape Snapchat entirely and whether or not Snapchat will take this lying down. Smaller apps with the same function may not be too big a deal, but Facebook and Messenger have gigantic userbases that grow daily, so similar function being offered to these users without having to download Snapchat may just build a coffin around the ninja messaging app.