Tech News : WhatsApp’s Vanishing Photos & Videos

Facebook’s WhatsApp is rolling out its new ‘View Once’ feature whereby photos and videos disappear from the chat after they’ve been opened.

Privacy and Space-Saving

WhatsApp says that the feature gives users more control over their privacy because “not everything we share needs to become a permanent digital record” and suggests that ‘View Once’ is ideal for something like a photo of something sensitive like a Wi-Fi password or similar.

WhatsApp also points out that with many phones, taking a photo means it takes up space and this may not be necessary for something like “photo of some new clothes you’re trying on at a store, a quick reaction to a moment in time.”

How It Works

Users can choose to select photos or videos as ‘View Once’ and once sent, the recipient will see that they are marked with a new “one-time” icon. Once viewed, the message appears as “opened” and the media is not saved to the recipient’s Photos or Gallery. After the ‘View Once’ photo or video message has been opened once by the recipient it is erased from the chat or, if the photo or video isn’t opened within 14 days of it being sent, the media will expire from the chat anyway. The sender can’t view a photo or video again that they’ve sent as View-Once.

Also, photos or videos that were sent or received with View-Once can’t be forwarded, saved, starred, or shared, although it is possible to take a screenshot or screen recording of the media before it disappears or to take a photo or video of the media with a camera or other device.

Disappearing Messages

Back in November 2020, WhatsApp announced the launch of its ‘disappearing messages’ feature where users have the option to automatically delete chats between the sender and recipient after 7 days. At the time, WhatsApp said “most of what we send doesn’t need to be everlasting,” and that “Our goal is to make conversations on WhatsApp feel as close to in-person as possible, which means they shouldn’t have to stick around forever”.  WhatsApp also emphasised the feature would help users maintain privacy and give them “peace of mind,” as well as keeping the app light.


The new View-Once feature has been criticised by child protection advocates such as the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) because, coupled with the end-to-end encryption of the app, the view once feature could give those involved in child sexual abuse greater protection from detection.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The addition of the ‘disappearing messages’ feature last year and now the ‘View Once’ feature means that Facebook has ensured that WhatsApp is able to have very similar features to its rival Snapchat which, for example, has a “Stories” feature allowing users to post videos and photos to their profile which then disappear after 24 hours. The disappearing messages feature (which also works in Instagram) and View Once feature are also part of Facebook’s ongoing plan to integrate and make Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram interoperable in the near future. Also, for WhatsApp users, these new features may feel as though value is being added to the app and this could help to retain the loyalty of existing users and improve some practical aspects of the app (saving space on users’ phones), so that users feel more in control as well as bringing a feel-good factor about privacy. These factors are likely to be valued by business users and are ways to help keep this very successful free app up-to-date and relevant to current user needs.

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