updated 5/22/2013 6:16:25 PM ET 2013-05-22T22:16:25

Sending a hasty instant message to a friend at work can backfire. Say you called in sick when you really wanted an early start to your weekend. — if you share that info in an IM with a co-worker, you could be facing the wrath of HR in an office that routinely screens and logs messages.

Beginning on Thursday (May 23), you can install a browser plug-in that offers disappearing instant messages. OTR (Off the Record) is a free tool available from Lamplighter Games and is a lot like Snapchat, an instant-messaging picture app used primarily by teens. Messages disappear in 10 seconds or less.

"We're big Snapchat users," Kris Minkstein, the company's co-founder, told TechNewsDaily. He and his team came up with the idea at a recent TechCrunch Hackathon in New York City. The team won first prize from Yammer, a secure social network devised specifically for companies.

With OTR, users can send a photo message using a computer's camera or send a text-only message. Once recipients open OTR  instant messages  in their browsers, they have five seconds to read them before they disappear. But that's not to say someone couldn't capture a message if they really wanted to, Minkstein said.

"Of course, someone could always just take a photo with another device, so there's no way to 100 percent guarantee that messages won't make it out to the wild," Minkstein said.

But robust security was never the company's intention for OTR.

"This isn't built as some supersecure means to transmit communications for public companies or anything," he said. "It's meant to have a fun factor associated to it, just like Snapchat." [See also:  15-Year-Old Girl Explains Snapchat Photo Messaging ]

Getting started

  • And, it's a snap to get started. Chrome users can install the plug-in from the  Chrome  Web Store. (A plug-in extension for Firefox is also available; ones for Safari and Internet Explorer are in the works.)
  • To register, type in your email address, add a password and choose a username. Once installed, you'll see the bright orange OTR button in the top right corner of your browser window.
  • Before you can send a message, you'll first need to add contacts, which can be done in two ways. Choose "Invite Contacts" from the main screen that you see after clicking on the OTR button and then invite by  email . If you're a Yammer user, you can sign in with Yammer and those existing contacts will be added to OTR.
  • To send a message, click on the OTR button, which will open a small window (about the size of your phone). Choose either the blue camera tab or the red text tab at the bottom of the window. If you want to send a photo, you'll be prompted to give OTR access to your computer's camera. Choose a recipient, take a photo, type a message and press send.

Follow Leslie Meredith  @lesliemeredith. Follow us  @TechNewsDaily, on  Facebook  or on  Google+.

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