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Facebook’s ephemeral group messaging should give Snapchat the spooks

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Remember when Facebook reportedly tried to purchase a then-buzzing app called Snapchat for $3 billion in 2013? The deal fell through, and Snapchat went on to become insanely popular in its own right.

The failed acquisition attempt did little to phase Facebook’s unrelenting ambition. The social network even indulged in a bit of retail therapy later that same year by nabbing messaging giant WhatsApp. After all, who needs Snapchat when not one but two of your chat platforms boast a billion users each?

Like a scorned lover, Facebook has not managed to put the past behind it, as evidenced by its latest experiment. According to a number of users, Facebook is testing a new disappearing messages feature within its main app.

Tiffany Zhong, an analyst at venture capital firm Binary Capital, first tweeted about the feature on Thursday. Called “quick updates,” it can be activated by tapping a smiling face icon within Facebook’s main app. This allows you to add friends to groups so you can see each other’s updates — including text, image, and video posts — during a 24-hour window, after which they disappear.

In the past, Facebook has repeatedly flirted with Snapchat-style functions, both in the form of test features on Messenger, and via its unsuccessful standalone apps, particularly Slingshot.

Facebook may also envision the experiment as a method through which users could be encouraged to share more personal information, something that has increasingly eluded the platform since the rise of Snapchat.

Facebook itself has played down the importance of the test, claiming in a statement that it is an “old feature” that was only shown to “some people.” The company added that it has no plans to “launch it more broadly.” Like the aforementioned examples, however, it still divulges the company’s interest in tapping into Snapchat’s frequent sharing formula.

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