Facebook plays catch-up with new features for Messenger encrypted chats

Reactions, stickers and typing alerts are some of the upgrades.


End-to-end encrypted Facebook Messenger chats have long been held back by a lack of features, but that might not be a problem for much longer. Meta is rolling out a large Messenger update that brings many of the service's features to encrypted conversations. You can use reactions, stickers (including GIFs), message-specific replies and forwarding. You'll also see typing indicators, verified user badges and screenshot notifications.

The upgrade also lets you save photos and videos, and edit media before you send it. Meta has also finished bringing encrypted group chats and calls to Messenger, so you shouldn't have to worry that a family discussion might be exposed to snoops.

Meta doesn't expect end-to-end encryption to be the default for Facebook Messenger and Instagram until 2023. You'll need to use WhatsApp if you expect that convenience in the meantime. Still, the feature update could go a long way toward fulfilling Mark Zuckerberg's goal of a more "privacy-focused" social network where fewer people see what you're doing.

Not that governments are thrilled. Officials from the UK and other countries have railed against end-to-end encryption, arguing that it hurts law enforcement's ability to fight child exploitation, extremism and other threats. However, Meta isn't likely to back down — the company has rejected calls to weaken encryption, noting that backdoors would compromise safety and security (by giving hackers easier access) on top of any privacy concerns. Expect the tech firm to continue bolstering encrypted chat features for a while to come.