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WhatsApp now lets you post disappearing messages, which go away after 7 days

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Facebook recently announced that WhatsApp passed the whopping milestone of 100 billion messages sent per day, but not everyone wants those chats to stick around forever. Now, Facebook’s wildly popular messaging app with 2 billion users is adding a feature to give people more control on how their words and pictures live within the app. From today, messages — including photos and videos — can now be marked to disappear after 7 days.

The feature is being rolled out globally across Android and iOS starting today, WhatsApp said. While it’s starting with a 7 day lifespan, it is already looking at playing around with the time limits.

“We will keep an eye on feedback about how people are using it and liking it and see if it needs adjusting in the future,” a spokesperson said. “For now we are starting with seven days, because it feels like a nice balance between the utility you need for global text based conversations and the feeling of things not sticking around forever.”

And just to be clear, the 7-day limit will exist regardless of whether the message gets read or not. (The clock starts counting when the message is sent, as it does on other apps like Telegram.)

“The way it’s currently designed is to give the sender confidence that after 7 days their message is gone. The messages have no concept of being seen, for them to disappear, so they will disappear regardless of read status,” said the spokesperson.

Users can turn on the feature for direct messages, but in groups it’s the admin that has to enable disappearing messages for it to work.

Although today is the “official” announcement, eagle eyed WhatsApp watchers had spotted the company posting FAQs on the feature some days ago. And tests of the feature actually first started to appear — and,  fittingly, disappear — as early as March of this year.

This isn’t WhatsApp’s first rodeo with disappearing content. In 2017, the company first dabbled in the idea with the launch of Status — an encrypted clone of Snapchat’s Stories feature, which let people set up short updates on themselves — in the form of some text and/or a GIF — as essentially a “profile” for all of their contacts to see for a set period of 24 hours, with the Statuses existing in their own tab in the app separate from your chats.

It’s not clear how popular the Status feature is: we’ve reached out to ask. Anecdotally, I’ve seen younger people using it a lot, older people less so.

WhatsApp said that one of the reasons it’s taken its developers so long to bring that feature to the wider chat experience is in part because of the encrypted aspect of the app:

“[End-to-end encryption] was partly why it took us so long to implement this feature, because we wanted to retain the e2e capabilities that WhatsApp users expect and love,” the spokesperson said.

But in any case it’s a very long time in coming. Ephemerality has been one of the most radical and sticky features in messaging in years, and has arguably been the defining feature for one of the runaway, viral hits of the genre, Snapchat — so much so that it has spawned clones of the feature in a number of other apps, from those focused first and foremost on privacy like Signal and Telegram, through to those that are aimed at more casual consumer audiences, like WhatsApp.

The new disappearing messaging feature is coming amid some other notable additions in the app that appear to be in aid of the general purpose of giving more control to users.

Earlier this week, WhatsApp announced that it would enable a new storage feature in the app: specifically, an easier way to control how and where photos and other media that you are sent live. This is especially important for active (but perhaps not deep) users of the app, who find their storage is getting gobbled up by innocuous GIFs, photos and videos sent over the app by friends and acquaintances. At the same time, it has also been beefing up the services it offers to businesses, and testing out business models for charging them, one way to stick to their commitment not to put ads into the service.

As with the storage changes, the new disappearing feature will not be switched on for users by default: you have to proactively change the settings.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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Uber officially completes Postmates acquisition

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Uber today announced the official completion of its Postmates acquisition deal, which it announced originally back in July. The all-stock deal, valued at around $2.65 billion at the time of its disclosure, sees Postmates join Uber, while continuing to operate as a separate service with its own branding and front-end – while some backend operations, including a shared pool of drivers, will merge.

Uber detailed some of its further thinking around the newly combined companies and what that will mean for the businesses they work with in a new blog post. The company posited the move as of benefit to the merchant population they work with, and alongside the official closure announced a new initiative to encourage and gather customer feedback on the merchant side.

They’re calling it a “regional listening exercise” to be run beginning next year, wherein they’ll work with local restaurant associations and chambers of commerce to hear concerns from local business owners in their own communities. This sounds similar in design to Uber’s prior efforts to focus on driver feedback from a couple of years ago in order to improve the way it works with that side of its double-sided marketplace.

Focusing on the needs of its merchant population is doubly important given the current global pandemic, which has seen Uber Eats emerge as even more of a key infrastructure component in the food service and grocery industries as people seek more delivery options in order to better comply with stay-at-home orders and other public safety recommendations.

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Facebook-backed Libra Association rebrands as Diem

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The Libra Association, a consortium created by Facebook to support its Libra cryptocurrency efforts, announced this morning that it has a new name — the Diem Association — and made some key hires ahead of its launch.

This is just the latest course correction since the Libra project was announced last year. In an attempt to appease financial regulators around the world, the association shifted its strategy away from creating a global stablecoin and will instead launch multiple stablecoins, each tied to a different fiat currency (such as the U.S. dollar and the euro).

The project has also seen some high-profile departures, with announced partners like Visa and Stripe leaving the project. And Facebook has rebranded its cryptocurrency wallet, changing the name from Calibra to Novi.

In a statement, Diem Association CEO Stuart Levey more-or-less acknowledged that the new name is an attempt to distance the group from Facebook, and from its earlier controversies.

“The Diem project will provide a simple platform for fintech innovation to thrive and enable consumers and businesses to conduct instantaneous, low-cost, highly secure transactions,” Levey said. “We are committed to doing so in a way that promotes financial inclusion – expanding access to those who need it most, and simultaneously protecting the integrity of the financial system by deterring and detecting illicit conduct. We are excited to introduce Diem – a new name that signals the project’s growing maturity and independence.”

As for the new hires, they include Chief Technology Officer Dahlia Malkhi, Chief of Staff Christy Clark, Chief Legal Officer Steve Bunnel and Executive Vice President for Growth and Innovation/Deputy General Counsel Kiran Raj. Diem Networks, the subsidiary that will actually operate the Diem payment system, has also hired James Emmett as managing director, Sterling Daines as chief compliance officer, Ian Jenkins as chief financial and risk officer and Saumya Bhavsar as general counsel.

While today’s announcement doesn’t include any specifics about timing, it suggests the association is positioning itself for an imminent launch — albeit one that will “proceed only upon receiving regulatory approval, including a payment systems license for the operational subsidiary of the Association from FINMA.”

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Loop Team wants to give remote workers an in-office feel

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As we’ve moved to work from home during the pandemic, it’s been challenging for remote workers to feel connected. Loop Team, a new entrant into the enterprise communications space, thinks the way we are communicating needs improvement. That’s why the startup is releasing Loop Team today, a tool that is trying to use software to reproduce the in-office experience.

Company founder and CEO Raj Singh says that he learned about the problems of feeling disconnected first-hand at a previous remote-first company, but in spite of his best attempts to use technology to produce that in-office feel, he said he continued to feel out of the loop (so to speak). That’s when he decided to build the solution he wanted.

“We’ve looked at a lot of the interactions that happen when you’re physically in an office — the visual communication, the background conversations, the hallway chatter, the serendipitous bumping, things like that. And we built an experience that effectively is a virtual office. And so it tries to represent the best parts of what a physical office experience might be like, but in a virtual form,” Singh explained to me.

While he created this company prior to COVID, the pandemic has highlighted the need for a tool like this. Before he created the software, he interviewed hundreds of people who worked from home to understand their issues working outside of the office and he heard a lot of common complaints.

“There was an office and they didn’t necessarily know what was going on. They didn’t know who was available. They didn’t know who was around. It was difficult to connect. Everything was scheduled through calendar. They were missing some of that presence — and they were feeling lonely or out of touch or out of the loop,” he said.

His company’s solution tries to reproduce the office experience using AI, good, old-fashioned presence awareness and other tech to let team members know what you’re doing and if you’re available to chat. So just as you would wander down the hall and see your colleague on the phone or deeply involved with work on the laptop, and know to leave them be, you could get that same feel with Loop.

Loop Team Highlights

Image Credits: Loop Team

It gives the current status of the person, and you can know from looking at the list of people on your team, who’s available to talk and who’s busy. As you go into virtual discussions, the team can see who’s having meetings and individuals can pop in too, just as you might do in the office.

What’s more, you can set up rooms (like in Slack), but these are designed to give you a more personal connection using video and audio for actual discussion. You can work on projects via screen share and people who miss these meetings because of other obligations or time zone differences, can always review what they missed.

While you can do all of these things in Slack and Zoom, or in some combination of similar tools, Loop’s layout and presentation is designed to help you see the conversations in a clear way and expose what you want to see, while hiding parts of the day that don’t interest you.

The product is available for free starting today, but Singh wants to introduce a pricing model sometime next year based on team size. He expects there will always be a freemium version for teams under 10 people.

The company was founded in 2018 and nurtured at the Stanford SRI Institute. It has raised $4.75 million so far. Today it starts on its journey as a startup with its first product, and it’s one that comes with good timing as more teams find themselves working remotely than every before.

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