You must have been into a situation where, while using Facebook, in a fit of anger or due to the frustration you wrote the worst text ever and then pressed the send button. And later regretted it.

At present, there is no CTRL+ Z for a message that you send on Facebook Messenger. Once you have sent a text, it is bound to deliver. The help center of Facebook says: depending on the person’s notification settings, they may also receive your message as an email notification.(sic)

At present, you can only delete a sent message from your inbox (but not from the recipient’s inbox). This, however, might soon be changing. Facebook has recent added another patent, 20160182434, to its patent portfolio that discloses a method in which you can request Facebook to delete an already sent message from a receiver’s inbox.


How Facebook will Unsend a Sent Message

  • When Facebook’s message server detects your request to withdraw a message, the server will first determine if the message has already been sent from the message server or not.
  • If the message has not been sent, it will terminate the process. And the intended receiver will not receive the message. If the message was sent, the messaging server will put the sent text on the blacklist so that the recipient can no longer retrieve it.
  • You won’t have to press here and click there to request Facebook to withdraw a sent message. All you have to do is rapidly shake you smartphone, disclose one of the embodiments of the patent.
  • Other than shaking, FB will show an animation representing that your message is being sent. Tapping on the animation will help you cancel sending a text.

Also, the patent discloses a timeout period within which you can make a request to cancel sending a text. The timeout period will depend on multiple factors like how many times you contacted the recipient, number of mutual friends, social affinity, etc.

Thus, you may get a higher timeout period in case of your girlfriend, or best friend than a person you became friend five minutes ago.


One more thing to note is that the timeout period for a message will expire automatically as soon as you send another text. This is to say that if you have 10 seconds to make a request to withdraw a text, and you sent a kissing smiley to your crush and then a text saying “sorry”, then you are in trouble my mate as you can cancel the “sorry” from being sent within next 10 seconds, but not the smiley!

Not all patents turn into a product/feature, but there is a good case for this to see the light of the day. In fact, the patent itself might get rejected as the use case isn’t exactly new. The ‘shake the phone to unsend’ is probably the only unique thing here. If at all Facebook manages to get the patent granted, we can see them stopping others from implementing such a feature.

This was a guest post by Nitin Balodi who works at GreyB Research where he with his colleagues delves on patents a lot. He is an aviation freak with a callsign of ‘flanker’. He loves writing about technologies that will shape the future of humanity.

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