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I'm working on a messaging app where it is similar to Facebook messaging between friends, like Facebook any number of friends can be involved in the chat. Unlike Facebook (I believe?) users can add in other friends at any time during the chat to join the conversation. What I would like to know is should these newly added users be able to see all previous messages in that conversation?

When it would be good:

Say User #1 and User #2 just spent hours discussing and figuring out plans for a trip, then User #3 decides they want to come too. User #1 invites User #3 and now they can just read through all the plans without have to go over it all again.

When it would be bad:

Two weeks before aforementioned conversation User #1 and User #2 were badmouthing User #3 behind their back. User #1 had forgotten about this before inviting User #3. Now User #3 scrolls up and reads all of the things said about them and "friendships" are ruined.

Note: these examples are just given for context I'm sure there are plenty of other pros/cons to consider, like if bank account details were previously shared it could be more nefarious than simple gossip.

EDIT: One other important distinction from Facebook is the chat instances only span the duration of that conversation history. Think of it like little chatroom hangout where User #1 starts a conversation with User #2 called "Trip discussion" and do the aforementioned scenario, the history would be limited to that thread.

  • Do you have any more questions that we might be able to address in our answers? – maxathousand May 13 '16 at 9:29
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Allow the users to choose

If you want to maintain the conversation as the same thread, you could provide the users with the option at the time of invitation.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

To me, choosing not to share is essentially the same as creating a new conversation with the additional user.

This will communicate to the users exactly what will happen, so the application doesn't make any wrong or dangerous assumptions.

Addressing Privacy Concerns

You might consider allowing users to make the conversation "unsharable" by essentially locking the conversation down so new users cannot be added. It seems like this could solve your sensitive data issues. If User A doesn't want to allow User B to add people to their private conversation, they could "Prevent users from sharing this conversation" by clicking some icon or changing a setting. Perhaps it should be private by default.

Alternatively, you could design it to where a user would have to accept each proposed invitee.

mockup

download bmml source

  • +1 Ah I was just about to ask what if one user wants to share to potentially incriminate the other users, but you addressed that in you edit. Giving the ability to lock the sharing capability would make them feel safer about saying things without someone making it public. – DasBeasto May 12 '16 at 19:36
  • I like the options too it gives a very direct idea of what will happen with a choice of how to proceed. – DasBeasto May 12 '16 at 19:37
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How long have User #1 and #2 known each other? weeks? years? You certainly should not link their entire history with each other to user #3.

User trust is everything. You cannot have any sharing model that allows your "When it would be bad" scenario.

You can go check for yourself but I believe Facebook's model is user #1 and #2 can add user #3 and it creates a separate "group" conversation. To user #1, the chat with user #2 and the group chat will be treated as separate entities entirely.

You should should go experiment with Hangouts, Whatsapp, Snapchat, and the dozens of other chat apps with tens of millions of users to see how they solve these problems.

  • Sorry I didn't specify the conversation history is only relevant to this specific "chatroom" type instance, which is different from Facebook. I will clarify in the question. – DasBeasto May 12 '16 at 19:19
  • @DasBeasto point stands... can't violate user trust. – djechlin May 12 '16 at 19:19
  • It mitigates your first point about how long they knew each other, whether it be years or days if the conversation is a week old then that is all that's at risk. Otherwise the rest of you point does stand and is applicable +1 – DasBeasto May 12 '16 at 19:24

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