In April, TechCrunch broke the news that some Facebook messages from Mark Zuckerberg were removed from the inbox of the recipient in what some say infringed on users' trust and abuse of power since Facebook Messenger has no button & # 39; Unsend & # 39 ;. The next morning, Facebook suddenly announced that it would build this Unsend functionality for everyone. But six months passed without taking a look at the function, raising the suspicion that the announcement that it would release an Unsend button was only a PR-driven response to the scandal, even if Facebook just took the time to find out how to build it.
At the end of last week, TechCrunch asked Facebook about its progress on Unsend prior to the six-month mark, and the company told us: "Although we do not have anything to announce today, we have confirmed earlier that we are planning a function as send them and still plan to do this. "
Now we have our first look at the function thanks to TechCrunch's favorite tip-off Jane Manchun Wong. She has managed to generate screenshots of a prototype Unsend button from Facebook Messenger's Android code. Other Facebook prototypes discovered by Wong, such as Your Activity's screen dashboard, Instagram video calling and music stickers, and more features have been officially introduced.
Currently you can only delete messages from your own inbox – they are still in the inbox of the recipient. But with this prototype of the Unsend function you can delete a message from both sides of a conversation. However, the code indicates that there is a "time limit" in the current prototype. This may mean that users only need a certain amount of time after they have sent a message to make it disappear. That would essentially be an editing window where users could take back what they said.
In response, a spokesman confirmed that "Facebook internally tests products and features before being sent to the public so that we can ensure the quality of the experience."
The Do Not Send feature can be useful for people who say something stupid or inappropriate, reveal a secret they should not have, or want to erase proof of their crimes. This can reassure users by speaking freely in the app, because they know they can withdraw their texts. Snapchat messages destroy themselves unless they are purposefully stored by a user in the discussion line, allowing them to chat more from the loose wrist.
But Unsend can also open vectors for abuse, because users can harass people through Messenger and then remove the evidence. Facebook must ensure that Unsend does not accidentally become a weapon for bullies. This could mean that users may disable the possibility for their conversation partners to delete messages per thread and / or a report button specifically for marking messages that have since been withdrawn.
Facebook & # 39; s acquisition Instagram allows users to send Unsend messages and Snapchat added an Unsend option in June. But those chat products are more designed to have fun, discuss memes and share photos with close friends. Messenger has positioned itself as a core communication tool for the world. By tampering with the sustainability of messages, it may feel less reliable or truthful for some users. When we talk personally, our conversations are not written in stone forever … but there is no way to force anyone to forget what you said.
[Postscript: Ideally, Facebook builds this similarly to Gmail’s Undo Send option, where you can only use it for a very short period of time after a message is sent, but still actually deliver messages in real time. The real confusion and trouble would come with being able to unsend messages well after they’ve been sent and even read.]