Facebook is challenging competitor Snapchat, but this time the battle is playing out in Europe.
Two years ago, in November 2013, Facebook offered to acquire Snapchat for close to $3 billion. Snapchat’s then-23 year old cofounder and CEO Evan Spiegel turned away the offer.
Snapchat, a rapidly growing messaging service that has become wildly popular around the world, is famous for its ephemeral messaging: users can communicate with one another but their messages will disappear soon after they are read. Recently, Fortune valued Snapchat to be worth at least $19 billion. According to the Snapchat team, users are viewing at least 6 billion videos per day – closely trailing Facebook’s 8 billion a day.
Now, Facebook is stepping up its game. In what the company is calling “a test,” Facebook has recently announced it will launch a disappearing-message feature in its Messenger app in France. The feature allows users to tap an hourglass icon, making messages disappear an hour after they’re sent.
“We’re excited to announce the latest in an engaging line of optional product features geared towards making Messenger the best way to communicate with the people that matter most,” Facebook said in a statement. “Starting today, we’re conducting a small test in France of a feature that allows people to send messages that disappear an hour after they’re sent. Disappearing messages gives people another fun option to choose from when they communicate on Messenger. We look forward to hearing people’s feedback as they give it a try.”
Although only available in France now, Facebook may be expanding the feature to other countries, and is currently available for all iOS and Android users in France.
Facebook has made other attempts to counter rival Snapchat. In 2012, as Snapchat rapidly gained popularity, Facebook launched “Poke,” an app they boasted was coded in 12 days. The app offered Snapchat-like ephemeral photo messaging, but it was an unpopular move. Two years later, Facebook launched “Slingshot,” which features instant messaging and disappearing photos.
Snapchat has yet to comment on Facebook’s new experiment.