This comes as little surprise, given that WhatsApp is developing the same thing, but this week, Instagram has confirmed that it's also working on a new disappearing messages option within its Direct tools
Spotted by reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong, the new option, at least at this stage, would see all of your messages disappear from the chat window after you'd read them and navigated to another section of the app.
In this iteration, there doesn't appear to be any time limit controls within Insta's auto-delete settings, but that's probably the next stage, because as noted, Facebook-owned WhatsApp is also looking to add the same functionality, though with added control elements for your disappearing communications.
Why does it matter what WhatsApp is developing in this respect?
Because as Facebook announced over a year ago, it's working towards eventually merging its messaging apps - Messenger, Instagram Direct and WhatsApp - to enable simplified cross-platform communication via message.
Facebook confirmed that it's still working towards its messaging unification plan in August last year, and with that being the case, WhatsApp's development team would be well aware that any feature that they're working on now would also, eventually, have to integrate with Messenger and Direct.
And given that WhatsApp's still working on its disappearing message tools, you would expect that Instagram and Messenger will follow suit. WhatsApp's variation, as you can see in the above screenshots, is more advanced, because it's been working on it for some time, so while Instagram's version doesn't yet have the same level of sophistication, it will. Messenger will also be working on the same.
That means that you'll likely soon have a new option for communicating with friends via the three apps, with disappearing messages in the main chat window. Messenger actually already has a variation of this available, as does Instagram, but this new version, as noted, looks set to have more controls - which could also, potentially, provide more ways in which brands might be able to use them for outreach and interactive promotions.
Snapchat saw a lot of brand success early on with expiring offers, and with variable time limits on your disappearing messages, this could be even more useful.
But then again, regulatory bodies will likely not be happy at Facebook adding in a disappearing message option. Already, WhatsApp has come under fire over how it's used by bad actors, with end-to-end encryption protecting their activities. US regulators have also raised concerns about Facebook's broader messaging merger plan. Adding in an auto-delete option won't help the company ingratiate itself with such groups, but Facebook does look set to push either way.
That could set up some interesting conflicts in future, while if Facebook does officially announce this disappearing message option, you can also expect pushback on some sides.
But given Instagram's confirmation, it does appear to be on the way. We'll keep you updated on any progress.