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Self-Destructing Messages Enter the Workplace With Browser App

Self-Destructing Messages Enter the Workplace With Browser App

Photograph by Roderick Chen

First came the self-destructing photos. Then the self-destructing text messages, videos, and PDFs, followed by the self-destructing tweets.

Now up: self-destructing messages on your Web browser.

Boutique app maker Lamplighter Games on Thursday launched OTR, a browser plug-in that lets you send self-destructing messages to your friends and colleagues while sitting in front of your computer at work. The messages disappear within a few seconds of being read.

What does OTR look like in action? Check out this demo video:

OTR is available for Google’s (GOOG) Chrome browser, with versions for Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari expected to come out shortly. Users can also set up OTR on Yammer, Microsoft’s (MSFT) workplace social network.

Kris and Andy Minkstein, brothers and co-founders of Lamplighter Games in New York, showed off an early version (then called ChapSnat) at the TechCrunch Hackathon in April. “We both love using Snapchat, so we thought it would be fun to put Snapchat in the browser,” said Kris. “We figured since you’re in front of your computer all day at work that you’re going to end up sending a lot of these photos to probably the guys sitting next to you at your cubicle.”

Andy then sent a ChapSnat to his brother. “Now he can view it,” Andy said. “Five seconds later, it’s gone before he can forward it on to the boss.”

Recent revelations that Snapchat’s self-destructing messages aren’t actually fully destroyed has prompted some anxiety among users. Decipher Forensics, a company in Utah, announced earlier this month that for a fee of $300 to $500 they can recover all past Snapchats from a user’s phone.

How safe is OTR from the long arm of your employer’s HR department?

Kris says the company is in no way guaranteeing that the messages on OTR can’t be recovered if, say, the human resources department decided to hire a digital forensics expert to retrieve them. OTR, he says, is meant for having fun: “It’s not meant for ultra-secure communications or anything crazy like that.”

OTR joins a growing number of apps and services offering self-destructing media, and the Minkstein brothers believe that the proliferation of ephemeral media is no fad. “People didn’t even know they wanted this until recently,” Kris says. “But they’re getting more and more frustrated with sharing things that live forever on the Web. If anything, you’re going to see more of this. It’s here to stay.”

Gillette is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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