Screenshots show disappearing messages coming to Messenger

Facebook's previous attempts to emulate Snapchat with standalone apps have failed

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
May 2, 2016
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Updated with comment from Facebook

I'm kind of fascinated with Facebook's relationship with Snapchat. The two companies are, in some ways, built with completely opposite aspirations, yet Facebook can't help but try to emulate it. Maybe that's because of Snapchat's success in areas that are important to Facebook, including in video, and with young people.

Facebook has already tried, twice, to create separate apps that tried to copy some aspect of Snapchat's model, by allowing users to send disappearing messages. Neither caught on, so now the company seems to be looking to incorporate the feature into Messenger.

Screenshots posted to the Twitter account @iOSAppChanges show Facebook 

At this point it is not known how accurate these screenshots are. Assuming that they are real, such a move by Facebook would actually make a lot of sense, considering how its previous attempts to emulate the Snapchat model were failures.

The first time Facebook decided to go after the company by creating its own version of Snapchat was called Poke, which debuted in December of 2012. It allowed users to send each other messages, photos, or videos that would only have a set time limit before they expire.

Poke only lasted until May of 2014, but Facebook but Facebook tried again with an called Slingshot, in which the messages that were  sent disappear after they were read. That app also had an even shorter lifespan. Released in June of 2014, it also failed to take off and was shut down in December of 2015.

By putting the feature onto Messenger, it allows the company to incorporate it into its most successful stand-alone app, which will mean it automatically becomes offered to hundreds of millions of users without them needing to download a separate feature.

Facebook has been putting a lot of focus on building out Messenger, ever since decoupling it from the main app in 2014.

It's worked well, as Messenger was the fastest growing app in the United States in 2015, growing by 31 percent through the first 10 months of the year to 96.4 million average unique users. In fact, that was the third time out of four years that Messenger held that distinction. In 2012 Messenger grew by a whopping 544 percent, and in 2014 it grew by 242 percent. The app hit 900 million users in April.

Facebook's main goal with Messenger, it seems, is to have it be the only app that its users ever need to open. It's achieved this by opening it up to other apps and developers, as well as adding integrations for transportation apps, including Lyft and Uber, and music integration with Spotify.

Basically, users can do everything they want to, from ordering a cab to listening to music, without ever needing to leave. Now they can also use Snapchat, or at least some version of it, as it tries to hang on to the young kids who are migrating to the younger network.

It seems unlikely that incorporating disappearing messages will do much to move the needle. That was a feature for Snapchat; now its focus is on video, with 10 billion daily video views a day, two billion more than Facebook sees. Over the weekend, Evan Spiegel, Snapchat's founder and CEO, said that he considers it to be "a camera company."  

Perhaps Facebook's reported Camera new app, one that will, like Snapchat, open directly to a camera, do a better job of helping the company take on what has quickly become its biggest rival.

These tweets were first discovered by VentureBeat on Sunday. 

A Facebook spokesperson informed VatorNews that the company had begun a small test of disappearing messages to some French users last Fall. When asked if the company was expanding the feature to other countries, as these screenshots seem to indicate, Facebook had no comment. 

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