‘This Message was Deleted!’

“This message was deleted” — screams WhatsApp. Why?

We can see “Edited” tag once you ‘tamper’ with the messages sent in platforms like LinkedIn or collaboration tools like MS Teams. But WhatsApp won’t let you to edit a message, but it lets you to ‘Delete for Everyone’ within an hour — the catch is, WhatsApp will announce this deletion to all original recipients. But why?

Transparency? I don’t think so. Here are my takes on this.

The ‘App Engagement’ Argument

WhatsApp falls under the category of ‘communication/messaging app.’ The primary function of the app is to enable people to communicate. So, it encourages communication whenever there is a chance.

The moment we see “This message was deleted” info, curiosity kicks in. This might prompt us to reach out to the sender and casually ask “What was the message you deleted?” Boom! it is the start of a whole new conversation and the app engagement score will sky-rocket.

The ‘Saving Reputation’ Argument

Imagine a WhatsApp group where two people are debating. Let us say that one person deleted some arguments later. If “This message was deleted” info is not displayed, it makes the other person appear to be talking aloud to himself or herself.

The ‘Digital follows Physical Experience’ Argument

This digital experience of ‘message deleted’ mimics the real world conversation experience where we can apologize and take back any offending words already spoken against somebody. It is also important to preserve the chain of conversation from a legal/evidence standpoint — this can be a part of digital evidence that is admissible in courts.

The ‘No Messing with Push Notifications’ Argument

Push notifications are generated in the phone as soon as a WhatsApp message is received. If the sender deletes the message later, there is a technical difficulty in altering the already generated push notification. So it is important to indicate the deletion of the message when a user tries to reach it by clicking on the push notification.


With inputs from my friends: Abhijith Ajith, Pavan Sridharan, Sanjay Reddy, Hashim Basheer