Product Feature: Burn-on-Read and Expiration Timers

When having a face-to-face conversation with someone, there is no record taken of the conversation. No one is taking notes of what was said, no one is using a recording device. Face-to-face conversations occur, and then they cease to exist.

This is the basic premise of ephemeral communications. Ephemeral messaging is when a message is automatically deleted after a set amount of time. When digital communication started to become the norm, the community as a whole decided that all communications should be kept forever, just because they could be. We began filling up servers with terabytes of data that would never be needed again. Is this really how we are supposed to communicate? Is there any reason that we need to keep a record of every single digital conversation that we have?

Moreover, is this a secure way to communicate? After all, if you hold onto every piece of digital communication you’ve ever had, a hacker can happen upon a goldmine of information to use to their advantage. By storing all of your messages, you are basically packaging up your personal information and handing it to a potential hacker.

Not sure hacking is something you need to worry out? Check out these stats:

This is why Wickr — the most secure communication platform on the planet — features ephemeral communications, in the form of expiration timers and burn-on-read timers.

Expiration Timers

Expiration timers dictate how long after a message is sent that it will be deleted. In Wickr Me, expiration timers can be set to anywhere from 6 hours to 6 days. In AWS Wickr you have a wider range of options, with settings anywhere from 6 hours to 30 days.

Expiration timers are ideal for everyday communications. You might want your messages to stay around for a few days in case you need to refer back to them, but one could argue that it is rare to want to see a casual message 30 days after it is sent. Expiration timers ensure that your messages aren’t staying longer than they are useful, but spare you the task of going through and deleting the old messages one by one.

Expiration timers are featured in Wickr’s direct messages and rooms. Individuals (or moderators, in the case of AWS Wickr rooms with admin settings) can set a default expiration timer for the room or direct messaging thread. This setting can be changed at any time. With the help of expiration timers, it is easy to increase your security dramatically without even having to think about it.

Burn-on-Read Timers

The burn-on-read (BOR) feature automatically deletes a message once it has been read by its recipient. This is different from expiration timers because the countdown starts not when the message is sent, but when it is read by the recipient.

The BOR timer can be set anywhere between 3 seconds and 6 days, or it can be off by default. This is true in both Wickr Me and AWS Wickr. 

The BOR timer is unique in that it ensures that the recipient sees the message, and then deletes it. This is helpful for unimportant conversations that don’t need to be referred back to again and again, or if you just want to make sure that the recipient received and read the message.

Setting Expiration and Burn-on-Read Timers

You can set default expiration and burn-on-read timers for each individual room or direct message. To do so, push the Information button within the room or message:

This will bring up a menu that allows you to set either kind of timer:

Once picking which kind of timer you would like to set, a wheel will come up allowing you to set  each timer. BOR timers can be set for anywhere between 3 seconds and 6 days. In Wickr Me, expiration timers can be set from 6 hours to 6 days. However, AWS Wickr offers expiration timers from 6 hours to 30 days, making it easier to hold on to data that you might need in the near future.

You may also note that the BOR timer has much smaller time increment possibilities than the expiration timer. This is because the expiration timer starts counting as soon as the message is sent, so we allow your recipient 6 hours to view it before it is deleted. However, the BOR timer ensures that the recipient has seen the message, so it can delete the messages much sooner. It is also important to note that you can choose a custom amount of time for either timer, as long as it is within the acceptable range for that kind of timer.

Protect Your Communications with Ephemerality

If your communication app doesn’t provide ephemeral messaging, it’s time to rethink the way you communicate. Ephemeral communication makes sense, is easy to use, and protects your data from any potential hackers. After all, if someone hacks into your messages and yet sees no communications, what harm was actually done? Protect your conversations by ensuring that they don’t remain longer than they should. Download AWS Wickr today for free!