FACEBOOK TESTS DISAPPEARING MESSAGES, SCARES USERS WITH PHOTO MAGIC
Facebook is testing a new feature in its chat function that allows users to send messages that will disappear after an hour. Currently being tested in select regions, the feature allows users to click an hourglass icon at the top-right corner of the message window. When the icon is tapped, the following messages the user sends will disappear an hour later.
This is Facebook’s first foray into the ephemeral messaging market dominated by Snapchat, which the social network tried to purchase in 2013. Whereas Facebook deletes the messages after an hour, Snapchat allows its users to set the time limit themselves, from 1 to 10 seconds, after which it deletes the message. Users are still able to take a screenshot of the messages on either Facebook or Snapchat, though the latter detects when a screenshot has been taken and warns the sender.
Ephemeral or self-destruct messaging apps have gained increased popularity among privacy-conscious adults and selfie-taking teens. Applications such as Snapchat have been embraced by users because, as opposed to a Facebook Timeline or a Twitter feed, they do not aggregate a user’s history in perpetuity. Not unlike a phone conversation, such messages are not saved after the initial communication has concluded. As more people are held accountable for past statements made online, regardless of context or chronology, the notion of self-destructing messages has become appealing to many users.
Facebook is also testing a facial recognition feature called Photo Magic, which scans newly taken photos on mobile devices and notifies the user when it has identified their Facebook friends, giving them the option to send the pictures to the people identified. In a statement to TechCrunch, Facebook’s Director of Product Management Peter Martinazzi said, “What we’ve seen is that private sending of photos in Messenger is really popular. About 9.5 billion photos were sent inside Messenger in the last month.”
The new feature uses the same facial recognition technology as Facebook’s existing photo tag suggestions. When you take a new photo, a preview window with the photo, the intended recipients, and an option to include a text message appears with buttons to send or cancel. There have been a number of articles written which suggest that the feature scans all your existing photos retroactively and attempts to tag the people in them. Based on the initial information released by Facebook, Photo Magic only scans the pictures on your phone once during the onboarding phase, to find a single picture with one of your Facebook friends and show you how to use the feature. Perhaps even one such scan can be considered invasive.