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Update: You can now delete accidental WhatsApp messages
To delete messages, both you and the recipient must be on the latest version of WhatsApp. The update is rolling out for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone users around the globe now.
Original coverage (10/27): It’s been one of the biggest troubles facing instant messaging since it began: what happens if you wish you’d never sent that text? This can be a particular problem for those of us who are part of multiple group chats with friends and family members, and are prone to sending unsavory content — accidentally select the wrong group, and you could find yourself in trouble.
Well, I bring good news, folks: WhatsApp has a solution on its way soon. According to the WhatsApp FAQ page (via Android Police), the app is receiving a global delete method for your messages, meaning you can remove them from your device, and from recipients’ devices, after sending them.
This was seen working in the WhatsApp Beta app version 2.17.399, but it looks like it could be a server-side rollout; others on that version don’t have the same functionality and WhatsApp hasn’t revealed exactly when it will appear for all users.
When you try to delete a message from a conversation, you will receive a popup asking if you want to delete it just for yourself or delete it for everyone (why you would want to do the former, I don’t really know). It’s also said to work for images, videos, GIFs and more.
When you do delete a message, in its place a comment is left behind that says “This message was deleted.” Some commentators have already noted that this is a poor solution as WhatsApp makes it clear that something had been sent, but it’s better than having no option at all, surely? What’s more, recipients receive a notification when the message is sent anyway, so they would know you had deleted it if nothing was there, unless WhatsApp also had a way around that.
There is another potential drawback in that there is limited window of opportunity during which you can delete message — seven minutes. If you try to delete it after this time, you won’t be able to. You can stop them from taking screenshots or search manually for the content though.
Still, I appreciate having this option immensely as I regularly fear dropping something inappropriate into group chats with the wrong people. Look out for it hitting your version of WhatsApp in the near future.