Facebook launches self-deleting Snapchat-like feature 'Secret Conversations'

Facebook has recently introduced a new feature 'Secret Conversations'. It combines the encryption options currently available on Facebook and WhatsApp service with the short availability of posts on Snapchat. The technology uses the Signal Protocol developed by Open Whisper Systems

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Aug 2, 2016 7:56 AM
Facebook launches self-deleting Snapchat-like feature 'Secret Conversations'

Facebook had tried to acquire Snapchat three years ago for an estimated sum of $3billion, but the offer was turned down, and since then, there has been an unending rivalry between the two social media platforms.

Lately, Facebook messenger crossed the billion mark while Facebook's quarter results posted higher growth than estimated by most experts. Facebook is always said to be larger than Snapchat and boasts of better Monthly Average Users and Daily Average Users.

However, according to a survey by SurveyMonkey, Snapchat was the most downloaded app in the first half of 2016 as compared to Facebook and it stood second only to Facebook Messenger. 

In an attempt to de-stabilize Snapchat's growing popularity and to ride on its privacy policies, Facebook has launched a trial version of Snapchat like messaging option. Ever since Snapchat rose to

prominence, it has only gained momentum. One of the main features that makes Snapchat so popular is its self-destructive messages, the privacy goes to an extent that if anyone had to even take a screenshot of the picture or video uploaded, the uploader gets a notification.

Facebook has launched what it calls ‘Secret Conversations’ to a few users and will be up for a complete release by September according to media reports. It combines the encryption options currently available on Facebook and WhatsApp service with the short availability of posts on Snapchat. The technology uses the Signal Protocol developed by Open Whisper Systems.

Facebook posted on its blog, “Secret conversations are available on a limited test basis right now, but we will be making the option more widely available this summer. During this test, we will gather feedback about the functionality, measure performance and introduce tools to enable you to report objectionable content to us. We are putting a lot of thought into the design and implementation of this feature, and we are grateful to the security and privacy experts who have given us their valuable input.”

Facebook claims it has worked on user demands to create a conversation that safeguards the privacy of the sender and the receiver. The ‘Secret Conversation’ is launched to test the ability to create secret conversations between two people and will be end-to- end encrypted to be read only on one device.

Currently messages sent on Facebook Messenger can be read across all devices connected to the users account. However, this could change once ‘Secret Conversation’ is enabled. This is an optional service provided to Facebook users and can be enabled or disabled as per their convenience.

Facebook said, “That’s because many people want Messenger to work when you switch between devices, such as a tablet, desktop computer or phone. Secret conversations can only be read on one device and we recognize that experience may not be right for everyone.”

Messages sent in top-secret conversations can also have a timer set for each message, controlling how long the message is visible.

‘Secret Conversations’ currently won’t support rich content like GIFs and videos, making payments or other popular Messenger features.

Facebook has attempted to copy Snapchat’s feature multiple times in the past few years. In 2012, it coded Poke in 12 days, cloning Snapchat almost exactly. In 2014, it launched Slingshot and pulled it off a year later. And in 2015, it began testing self-destructing messages in Messenger itself, existing separately from the now-released Secret Conversation feature. Secret conversations are currently being tested on a limited basis but will be more widely available later in the year.

End-to-end encryption comes with a number of drawbacks. Encrypting text is hard; encrypting GIFs, videos, online payments and other "rich content" would not be possible in the start at least. Secret Conversations work only between two participants; it's not feasible to offer end-to-end encryption options for a whole group. This option is available only on iOS and Android devices at present. Facebook Chief Security Office Alex Stamos took to Twitter downplaying the possibility of getting Secret Conversations to work on the desktop version of Messenger

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