If it’s online, it’s forever. Those are oft-repeated words, and they’ve frightened many a person who just posted a controversial tweet, or hit ‘Send’ on a sensitive message. There are plenty of stories of people losing their jobs after ‘Replying to All’ in a derogatory email. Or sexting photos gone viral. It’s every person’s nightmare – and for anyone with kids, it’s every parent’s nightmare too.
Thankfully, this is where self-destructing message apps come into the picture. It sounds like something out of James Bond or The Matrix, but when you send messages via a self-destructing message app, it’s a real-life case of “this message will self-destruct in 5 minutes.”
With a self-destructing message app, you can send messages that automatically destruct after a short, pre-defined period of time, making them untraceable. These types of apps also come with a built-in mechanism that makes it impossible to take a screenshot of the message. Essentially, your message will leave no trail, and no evidence that it ever existed.
Self-destructing message apps have been around for half a decade, and they’re constantly gaining in popularity, with new, free apps popping up all the time. In a world where communication happens mostly online, it’s no surprise that people are searching for tools to increase their privacy.
And the numbers prove it. Launched in 2011, Snapchat is one of the most popular self-destructing message apps, with over 150 million daily users. Self-destructing messaging really took off in about 2013. While many praise these apps for their ability to prevent message tracking, they’ve also come under fire from a few angles. Some argue that the proliferation of self-destructing message apps has encouraged unethical online behavior, such as sexting, illegal activities, and even marital affairs. Others criticize their false sense of privacy, stating that nothing is ever truly deleted online, and self-destructing apps are not as safe as people may think.
Whatever the truth, one thing is certain. People everywhere, hundreds and millions of them worldwide, love their free self-destructing message apps, and they are particularly popular among teens and tweens. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em – so we’ve done some research and discovered the 5 best free self-destructing message apps for people of all ages.
Snapchat – “You can say things you might regret later”
Snapchat is one of the longest-running, popular self-destructing messaging apps. It attracts a young user base, mostly millennials, who enjoy Snapchat’s funky user interface and the fleeting nature of the photos, videos, and messages, which are deleted after being seen by the receiver/s. Snapchat is constantly adding new features and adapting existing ones. Today, there are different types of messages, such as “Snaps”, “Chats” and “Stories”, and each has their own rules as to how long they’ll stay around before self-destructing. Snapchat was one of the first apps to take advantage of the excitement generated when you receive an instant, new message – and by making it disappear, the message’s appeal is heightened even more. Snapchat truly revolutionized the way young people approached chat messaging, and it brought many more self-destructing apps in its wake.
Telegram – “Built to withstand even Russian government agencies”
Founded by the brothers Durov, the people behind Russia’s largest social media network, Telegram became very popular in around 2014, and in 2016, it had over 100 million users, sending 15 billion messages every day. Designed in the style of WhatsApp, Telegram combines a fast messaging format with the ephemeral nature of Snapchat, together with extra advanced security features. Users can select a timeframe within which their message will self-destruct, from two seconds to one week. As a testament to the security level of Telegram, the founders once stated that they established the messaging system so it could even escape access by Russian agencies.
Wickr – “Security is the name of the game”
Founded in 2012 by Nico Sell, an online privacy advocate, Wickr is all about security. According to Sell, the shorter time a message exists online, the less chance of it being copied, shared and distributed. The self-destruction of messages is measured in two ways: Expiration is the amount of time a message lives in a one-on-one conversation, and Burn Out Time (BOR) is how long a message lives after all recipients have seen it. With the launch of Wickr Professional in 2016, Wickr expanded its services to offer protected group chat messaging that can be used in offices and professional settings. Perhaps this is the answer to sticky situations that can make matters very uncomfortable at work.
Confide – “Totally screenshot-proof”
Confide is a message-deleting app with end-to-end encryption promising a private, secure messaging experience. Founded in 2014, Confide is used by many who prefer a regular messaging app for daily chatting, yet need a special app for sensitive or particularly private messages. In fact, it became a popular choice among political staffers in the current US administration, resulting in a spike in popularity. However, this brought the app into the security spotlight, and last year it came under fire for vulnerabilities that were uncovered. The app has since resolved these issues and seems to be on the up-and-up once more. One of the app’s most popular boasts is that it is “screenshot-proof”. The company’s ScreenShield technology makes it impossible to take a screenshot of a Confide message in iOS, as well as Android, PC, and Mac.
Bleep – “No sign up necessary”
Launched in 2015, Bleep is a secure decentralized messaging service that offers a ‘whisper’ feature – when in whisper mode, messages self-destruct 25 seconds after being read by the recipient. Bleep works around the screenshot issue by blocking out the sender’s name and blurring the chat history. A key advantage of Bleep is that you don’t need to create an account or provide any personal information. Just download the app and start messaging. Although its user base is smaller, Bleep is one of the stronger performers in terms of security. In fact, the company once claimed that it is near impossible to know who is talking to who.
Why Some Countries Blocked Self-Destructing Message Apps
For millions worldwide, self-destructing message apps are proving invaluable for both personal and professional reasons, as well as political ones. It is no surprise then that in countries where the government closely monitors its citizens online, these kinds of apps are blocked or restricted. Countries such as China and Iran are renowned for preventing citizens’ access to websites and apps that may be used to foment anti-government sentiment. In fact, during the recent uprisings in Iran, the government blocked the Telegram private messaging app, in an attempt to shut down demonstrations by preventing communication among protesters.
One of the ways that people in restricted countries can still access self-destructing message apps is by using a VPN. VPN, or Virtual Private Network, provides a private and secure internet connection via servers in other countries. With VPN, many people can use self-destructing message apps freely, even during times of government duress.
This Article Will Self Destruct in 10 Seconds
At a time when it’s easy to be paranoid about online privacy, self-destructing messaging has a definite appeal. Apart from the undeniably James Bond vibe, there are also very real issues that can arise from long-lasting messages and chats. Whether it’s internal office politics, a messy divorce, or teenage gossip, self-destructing message apps provide a sense of security that standard popular chat apps just can’t provide. Even for those who have nothing to hide, it may be worth downloading a self-destructing message app to have on hand for those messages or photos that you’d just rather prefer would disappear. Luckily, the technology that can do this is readily available online, free and at your fingertips