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Messenger’s encrypted chats get themes, emoji reactions, and more

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Meta’s bringing Messenger’s core customization features to end-to-end encrypted (E2EE) chats on the platform. That means encrypted chats can now incorporate themes, custom emoji, reactions, group profile photos, and a whole lot more.

Messenger’s E2EE chats hide your online conversations from third parties, including Facebook itself. It also makes it more difficult for law enforcement and hackers to access the messages you’re sending and receiving. WhatsApp already has E2EE by default, and Instagram lets people switch on E2EE for individual conversations.

Image: Meta

Previously, Meta didn’t offer any way to customize encrypted chats. As soon as you switched over to (or entered) a secret conversation, all customization options disappeared, and you were left chatting against a plain white background. But now that Meta’s carrying over those customization features to encrypted chats, you can set themes, including static color and gradient ones, to make your conversations look less boring.

You’ll also have access to the full range of emoji reactions in E2EE chats and can customize the quick reaction tray. Meta’s adding the ability to set group profile photos, as well as view active status icons and link previews that show you more information about where a link is leading you. If you’re using Messenger on Android, you can also use the “bubbles” feature for E2EE chats, which gives you quick access to active conversations when you’re in other apps.

This comes as Meta looks to roll out E2EE by default. While Meta started testing default E2EE last August, it’s now expanding that test to more users over the next “few months.” It doesn’t say how many people will have access to it, but the company says it’ll notify people in “individual chat threads” when their chats are upgraded. Currently, the option to turn on E2EE on Messenger is buried in the settings of each chat, and it’s not all that easy to find if you don’t know where to look.

Last year, Meta said it was on track to roll out default E2EE in 2023 and previously indicated that the process was taking so long due to security concerns. As more users look for E2EE to secure their conversations, Meta likely wants to make Messenger more appealing to better compete with growing services like Signal and Telegram. Telegram continues adding new features for both free and premium users, and Signal’s been doing the same with the addition of Stories and other mainstream chat features.

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