2023, July 17
8 min read
Matt S.

Self Destructing Messaging Explained: The Ultimate Guide

Ephemeral messaging, also known as self-destructing messaging, is a secure communications method in which they are deleted immediately after being read.

If you think that pressing delete chat or deleting individual messages gets them wiped from the face of the internet, you might be mistaken. On certain apps, even text messages that disappear aren't deleted permanently. They're removed from your history but stay on the service provider's servers and/or storage.
This is where self-deleting or self-destructing messaging comes into play. With the ever-increasing risk of data breaches, leaks, and even government or corporate spying with unauthorized access, knowledge about improving the privacy and security of your communications is very valuable. So, in this article, we will focus on how self-destructing messaging works, what it is, how it operates, its pros and application niches, and more. Hopefully, this will be your 101 guide.

Self-Destructing Messaging – How It Works?

If you use instant messaging, social media, and seemingly any communication app, you've probably heard about stuff like
  • Vanish Mode
  • Secret Chats
  • Disappearing Messages
  • Self-deleting texts
These are all different titles used to describe the same thing – ephemeral or self-destructing messaging.
Self-Destructing Messaging
Ephemeral or self-destructing messaging allows you to send text messages & files that disappear after a set period. The best thing is that you can usually control the time, after which the content disappears. This greatly boosts the privacy and security of all digital communications.
Some apps have a set time by default, after which messages are automatically deleted. For example, the image below shows a toggle in a messaging app where the user has selected their messages to self-destruct 5 minutes after being seen.
Additionally, after the message's lifespan, it is automatically deleted from the device. And since most apps and platforms use E2E for disappearing messages, the contents are, sadly or not, lost forever. In addition, platforms can use techniques like data obfuscation and specific deletion algorithms. These add supplementary levels of protection against hacking and/or unauthorized access. Probably the only downside is that nothing is stored or saved. So if you share some fun photos or important files, you can't return them after they've been destroyed.

Advantages of self-destructing messages

You can enjoy a wide list of benefits if you send self-deleting texts. Some are short-term gains, while others can provide long-term benefits for your personal and/or organizational comms security. Let's look at them.

You control your information

When you think about it, the fact that a social media network and/or big data company stores your messages on its servers is quite annoying. You can never know whether their servers will be hacked or whether they're not reading your content for profit or analytical purposes.
Disappearing messages put the control in your hands. You can set a time limit for message visibility and prevent recipients from saving or forwarding messages. Such control helps protect sensitive information and prevents misuse.

Reducing your digital footprint

Right now, most of us hear about our carbon footprint. But digital footprints are no less important for us and the whole world.
If not managed properly, your digital footprint can become one big vulnerability that cybercriminals can exploit. Messages stored on various servers are a big and very sensitive part of your digital footprint. So, if you send self-destructing messages and prevent recipients from saving and/or forwarding them, you can have better control over sensitive information and prevent exploits.
You can read more about what is a digital footprint in our previous blog post - Click here.

Preventing damage from data breaches/leaks

If you utilize text messages that disappear, even if there's a data breach or a leak, the hacker wouldn't gain any info. Why? Mostly because such content is end-to-end encrypted and useless without a proper decryption key.
Wickr has a great read about the pros of ephemeral messaging if you want to know a bit more detail on this (Read here).

Peace of mind

If you share sensitive info, you can have peace of mind knowing that there's almost 0% chance of someone misusing, exploiting, or leaking what you say. Ephemeral messaging apps ensure that private communications remain private.

What's the difference between manual message deletion and self-destructing messages?

Some people might wonder – Why would I need self-destructing messages? I can just delete them manually. We touched upon this a bit earlier, but these two solutions aren't equal. Deleting them manually only has a very limited effect. Let's get more in-depth to find out.
Here's an example from Snapchat. Even if you wish to manually delete a message, other members in your group can and will see that you've deleted something.
So, to begin – when you manually delete the messages, you do that intentionally (most of the time). Depending on the app, you can delete the entire chat or even particular messages and parts of conversations. If you delete messages manually
  • They are deleted from your device's internal, cloud, and/or any other storage
  • They are probably not deleted from the app's servers
  • They may or may not be deleted from the recipient's device (depending on the app)
  • The app will likely show that messages were deleted
On the other hand, self-destructing messages are designed to automatically self-destruct after a specific condition or a set of specific conditions are met. These conditions can be:
  • Elapsed time after sending
  • Elapsed time after reading
  • Chat is closed/ended
The best thing for users is that messages are and can be programmed to have a predetermined lifespan, which could range from a few seconds to hours or even days. Once the aforementioned conditions are met, the messages vanish from both the sender's and receiver's devices, leaving no trace behind. It's usually not stored on a server or only temporarily stored in an encrypted form that is near or totally impossible to decrypt. That's because ephemeral or disappearing messages can usually only be decrypted with a set of private and public keys.

What apps and platforms offer self-destructing messaging?

Probably the best-known app in this field is Snapchat. It started the trend of temporary and self-destructing messages. Later on, pretty much every social media and messaging app implemented a variation of this feature.
To fully enjoy the added privacy and security that self-destructing messaging offers, you should utilize platforms and apps that have a security-first and zero-trust approach toward digital communications. Skyda is one of the leading choices for Android and iOS users right now (Read more).
The Skyda app features:
  • End-to-end encrypted communication
  • The possibility to set your own time for self-destructing messages
  • Option to chat in total secrecy
  • High-quality video and audio calls thanks to WebRTC
  • Ability to send audio, video files, documents, .pdf, and other files for business and/or other purposes.
The Skyda app has a smooth and user-friendly interface which takes no time to get used to. It's just like your favorite messenger, only more private and more secure!

Where can I use self-destructing messaging?

In the broadest sense, self-destructing messaging can be used anywhere and everywhere. In both business and private lives, application opportunities are plentiful.
Let's group it into a few most common areas and niches where this option is most successfully implemented.
Legal/confidential matters. If you are planning a business transaction, are amidst legal processes, and want to share information with your lawyers, prosecutors, and officers in confidence, self-destructing messaging is the way to go. The best example is the guarantee of attorney-client privilege and protection of the confidentiality of the information shared.
Dating and private personal communication. Our personal data online is slowly but surely becoming our most valuable and yet most exploited resource. When it comes to personal and romantic communications, having the space to freely and securely interact with one another is super useful. Express your thoughts and feelings without being shared or fears of your expressions used against you.
Journalism and whistleblowing. In order to uncover and publish groundbreaking stories, journalists must be able to communicate with their sources. This can sometimes put both parties at risk; thus, a secure platform for communication is a must. In many countries, if the leak concerns the governments or legal bodies, this could cause even more risk. By using self-destructing messaging, journalists and sources can exchange valuable information without fear of it being used against them or interception.
Internal business communication. In corporate environments, self-destructing messaging can be used to exchange sensitive business information, such as financial data, trade secrets, or client details. It ensures that confidential information remains protected and limits the risk of data leaks.


Hopefully, our guide was useful in helping you understand the pros as well as the basic technical aspects of ephemeral messaging. Keep in mind that there are numerous application possibilities for this communication format and various benefits that seemingly anyone can take advantage of. Download Skyda and see for yourself!
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