Facebook has announced it is giving everybody the option to “Unsend” – delete and actually remove – messages in its instant messaging app Messenger.
You might remember the furore last spring when it was revealed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had given himself this privilege, but not ordinary users. Thanks to TechCrunch, we discovered Zuckerberg had used his executive power to enable himself (and other executives) to remove messages sent to the inboxes of other people (and from Facebook's servers), which he then proceeded to do as far back as 2010.
As an ordinary user, you can “delete” a message by pressing and holding down a message and selecting “Remove”, only it doesn’t actually delete the message as seen by the recipient, just the one that appears in your inbox. Clicking on the Remove button brings up the option to “Remove for You”, which literally means remove for you only. (Sorry anyone that has accidentally sent a message and then sighed with relief that they managed to delete it and is now realizing to their horror what that means.)
After the backlash regarding the special treatment of Zuckerberg and co. for “security”, Facebook announced that it recognized it had given its executives privacy options not available to users and was planning to roll out the removal feature for everybody. Until that day, they said, Zuckerberg would not be allowed to use the feature.
The new option, which officially launched yesterday, now gives you the chance to “Remove for Everyone”, which means your message will be removed from the recipient's inbox or group chat and Facebook’s servers (eventually). There is just a small catch: you have to delete within 10 minutes of sending the message.
Unsending a message in the first 10 minutes of sending it means you can correct a mistake or retrieve something you regret sending, but you can't go back and edit your message history. Facebook also confirmed it will keep deleted messages for “a limited amount of time” in case someone wants to report abuse, before permanently removing them.
“We need to make sure we don’t open up any new venues for bullying. We need to make sure people aren’t sending you bad messages and then removing them because if you report them and the messages aren’t there we can’t do anything,” Facebook’s head of Messenger, Stan Chudnovsky, told TechCrunch.
So we’re sure some of you are itching to find out when you can grab this new feature (like, it can’t come soon enough). Well, it should be available for both Android and iOS as of now (testing in the IFLS office revealed about half the team has this new feature available to them) so update your apps and operating systems and your days of worrying over an accidental “you’re” not “your” – or you know, anything slightly more NSFW – should be over.