Mobile Notifications

I was talking to a bunch of entrepreneurs a few weeks ago, and someone asked me what I thought was new and game changing. I replied mobile notifications. I thought I'd explain why.

I'm talking about android notifications here, not iPhone notifications or anything else. I think notifications is one of the things android has done much better than any other mobile OS and I suspect the way they do it will be eventually copied by the other mobile OS vendors.

Instead of doing a popup alert which interrupts you (iPhone), the android notifications all go into a single inbox that can be quickly viewed by pulling down from the status bar at the top of the main screen. You can get a vibrate or audio alert when a new notification comes in. That is configured by the user. I choose to have some notifications give me vibrating alerts (like communications services such as sms or kik) and leave most others silent. But that is totally up to each and every user.

The reason I think mobile notifications, done right, are a game changer is that notifications become the primary way I use the phone and the apps. I rarely open twitter directly. I see that I have '10 new @mentions" and I click on the notification and go to twitter @mention tab. I see that I have "20 new checkins" and I click on the notification and go to the foursquare friends tab. I see that I have "4 new kik messages" and I click on the notification and go to my kik app.

I think this is a game changer for a few reasons. First, it allows me to use a lot more engagement apps on my phone. I don't need them all on the main page. As long as I am getting notifications when there are new engagements, I don't really care where they are on the phone. Second, I can have as many communications apps as I want. I've currently got sms, kik, skype, beluga, and groupme on my phone. I could have plenty more. I don't need to be loyal to any one communication system, I just need to be loyal to my notification inbox. And finally, the notification screen is the new home screen. When I pull out my phone, it is the first thing I do. I think Android ought to reconsider what the home screen looks like. Why not have it feel like a Twitter timeline, alive and happening, versus a dead desktop style collection of apps?

I haven't done a deep dive on how this all works but I intend to. Can HTML apps use the notification channel? Can developers get access to this notification channel and start to build filters and other obvious applications that we will all want and need when this becomes our primary way we use the mobile device? These are the kinds of questions I want to understand because I think notifications will become the primary way that we consume on the mobile device and may be the reason we move away from downloadable software and back to web based software on our mobile devices.

And that is why I think mobile notifications are one of the biggest game changers to come along in our world recently.


Comments (Archived):

  1. ei_dscanlon

    Good observation Fred – this is the primary reason I’ve stuck with SocialScope on my BlackBerry.

    1. fredwilson

      i miss socialscope but getting off blackberry is the second best thing i’ve done for myself in tech stuff (best is getting off outlook/exchange and onto gmail)

      1. Matt A. Myers

        Millions of Canadian kittens die every time you say this about Blackberry… hopefully they’ll drastically improve in a big way – sadly I hear many other users with the same sentiment … pondering if they care to stay with Blackberry, where they’d miss BBM a bit but that’s about all…. They really should make BBM a service that all carriers can link into, sharing revenues of a monthly fee for that…

        1. fredwilson

          they are antagonistic to developers. bad srategy

  2. Julien

    Can’t agree more. Push FTW!If you want a similar notification for iPhones, there is a solution that needs a jailbreak : http://www.iphonedownloadbl…As for HTML, yes, that works too… HTML5 to the resue and its “notifications”. Not perfect yet, but it’s getting better.Basically, these are “last mile” push. They work as long as you have a somebody pushing to a client. There is no standard for it, and you can only subscribe to a service if this service provides a “channel” for the data to be pushed. Unfortunetaly, they’re mostly not compatible with each other : I cannot use an app that sends me push notifications from Twitter, Amazon or Tumblr without implementing each of their APIs. I believe that to solve this we need to solve the “server to server” push so that the “receiver” is able to push on the last mile. I believe PubSubhubbub is the technical solution for this and Superfeedr is the good horse to bet on ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. fredwilson

      awesome pitch for superfeedr Julien. well done.

  3. Driftaway Coffee

    Very timely. I came across this post yesterday (… that talks about how webOS notifications are better than Android – they’re on a status bar at the bottom of the screen and allow for easier thumb access.I also think that the notifications status bar should respond to touch instead of a drag. The notification itself can become a Android widget. I’d rather play/pause/next my Pandora from the notifications instead of going to the app.The iPhone / iPad notification system needs a complete revamp – every time I pull out my iPad, I have to close notifications from Remember The Milk, Gilt, Calendar, CNN Breaking News and a ton of other apps. None of these are allowing me to do what I want to do – use an app.

    1. fredwilson

      i need to use webOSi hear so many good things about itgreat commentthanks

      1. rymcghee

        I think you’d be extremely disappointed in the hardware aspects of the webOS devices currently available. Hopefully HP can improve on this going forward – the touchpad looks promising, but I’m not sure even their upcoming smartphones (pre 3 and veer) are going to have “power user” quality hardware.

    2. Aaron Klein

      Palm executed this well. A guy named Rich Dellinger designed it.Apple hired him during the uncertainty before the HP sale and it’s going to be fascinating to see if iOS learns anything from it.iPhone and iPad notifications are particularly poorly designed.

  4. howard

    You’re right that the UX needs to be more like a timeline, otherwise those little notification numbers will soon morph into the dreaded unread counts of classic RSS readers. It needs to be the love child of the priority inbox and the social graph-powered timeline. Or something like that…

    1. fredwilson

      “the love child of the priority inbox and the social timeline”wow

  5. Aaron Klein

    Agree 100% with the mobile notifications model of interacting with apps. It’s incredibly powerful.Control over what becomes a notification is key. I refuse to use Facebook for BlackBerry because it makes every Facebook event a notification and I have no control over that. Someone adds me to a group or suggests a friend, that’s a notification. Annoying.My mobile device is SO critical to managing my workflow while on the go, I just can’t deal with that. I’ve got to have very fine control over what goes into that stream.I don’t want to know how many tweets in my stream I haven’t read. But I do want to know how many @ mentions I haven’t read.I don’t want to know how many posts are unread in my Google Reader. (If I wanted that, I’d subscribe to blogs via e-mail!) But I do want to know how many unread e-mails I have.Right now, all apps (and all marketers) think they are equally important to me. And yet, they are clearly not. That’s also a problem waiting to be solved and it requires restraint and realism on behalf of marketers and app makers.

    1. fredwilson

      this whole thing needs to be opened up so the user has way more control overitright?

      1. Aaron Klein

        Definitely.And without the process turning into the monster that editing your sound and notification profiles on a BlackBerry turned into. Remember that?6 different “profiles” x 45 settings each = absolute user control but exponential editing madness.There’s got to be a better way to keep it simple.And a big piece of it is each app or marketer understanding their different audiences and not saying “but if I don’t push a notification to them every X hours, I won’t be able to hit the user engagement numbers I’m projecting!”I will love you more if you accept that some of your audience only wants to interact with you every two weeks (the Starbucks app) even though they want to interact with others every hour (the Twitter app).It doesn’t mean I love Starbucks less.

  6. Dan Lewis

    I don’t have an Android phone (Blackberry here) but this sounds a lot like how the Blackberry inbox is designed to work — an omnibus list of everything. It’s really too bad that Blackberry can’t seem to execute on the edges of their product designs.

    1. Aaron Klein

      I may head off the BlackBerry platform in a few months if they don’t execute a game changer. I just feel like it’s getting further and further behind and what I read from them on their “innovation” feels like anything but.That being said, I actually hate the idea of the inbox being connected with notifications. Maybe I’m uncool, but I turn that off in every app.You can put a notification icon on the top of my screen and in the notifications feed. My inbox is a tightly managed set of critical messages. I can’t afford those to get lost in the shuffle of app notifications.But maybe better curation and control is the key.

      1. baba12

        For blackberry just like for Windows, the party is done as the folks who worked to get those two platforms out have a strong desire to hold on to their methodology. The new game changer will not come from those folks, they are coasting and thats good enough for them.

  7. Mat Evans

    Completely agree that push notifications are a game changer that hopefully will become the main part of mobile apps and environment. I hope this will catch on a lot more with the availability of html5 websockets growing at the same time and drive some pretty awesome web apps.Notifications seem to be fairly single use and bounded by application at the moment – i’m sure there are security implications of opening them up slightly but as ever i’m sure there are some clever people out there ready to solve that.I can see them becoming part and parcel of everything that happens on a mobile device – after all what else do people mainly use them for – checking updates on various apps – if apps can be aware of other push notifications you could start showing things like who’s near you now, and free for lunch, and has time in their calendar etc etc..It might be scary for some but a fully rounded status being available to your friends about what you’re up to and whether you’re available etc sounds pretty amazing to me.

    1. fredwilson


      1. Matt A. Myers

        That is brilliant.I wonder why Apple didn’t do it. Possibly to put the focus back on applications? If you’re stuck having to click to an application to do a certain task, you’re more likely to search for applications that are more useful to your own specific needs? Sure, it could just be one click to showing an apps screen but then may make them less relevant in the mind’s eye.

        1. Jim Goodlett

          @Matthew, as the saying goes, if all one has is a hammer, all one looks for is a nail…That said, in the WEBos via HPalm, the user need not drive to an app to find information, or find which app might hold said information…the UX is built around the users need to locate ‘it’, making the architecture more action oriented…need to find a person, don’t open an app, just start typing…it presents you with the person’s assets for which you can E, SMS, call, etc…if need be you can click on the person to open the CONTACT app…same goes for finding information…start typing and if the info is not buried in E, then you can pick the most appropriate app to get you there (like $GOOG search, twitter, wikipedia, etc)…though I have not yet worked with their WEBos 2.0, it is said that the user will be able to define more apps for which to search…The future in my mind is not app centric, but action oriented experiences that allow the user to get to information whether it resides within an app, out in the blogosphere, upon ye ole INTERnet, ad infinitum…this of course challenges the $AAPL app model and rev stream galore…

          1. raycote

            Are Apps not really just a first reiteration action-based palette?

          2. Matt A. Myers

            I agree with your final note. After the hype and excitement of the new toy, it will become more of a tool to people – though there will always be a group who it stays a toy to, and there will always be a group who it will be a new toy too.

        2. FAKE GRIMLOCK


    2. Renee

      Ooh, throwback! That reminds me of the days when I used a Windows Mobile phone. I had SBSH’s Facade and it was so easy to edit the XML and get it looking exactly how you wanted it to. I hated Windows Mobile, but I loved that screen. When I finally capitulated and bought an iPhone, I wondered why they made it so difficult to have that kind of setup. I thought it might be to keep the phone minimalist, b/c Apple seems to think that a lot of information in one place = clutter. The Android notification system is definitely superior.

    3. Dan

      Love that!

    4. melissatran

      Gasp! I want this in my life. It’s like an app that prioritizes, organizes and sorts your other apps. If some apps are a virtual assistant, this is a virtual office manager.

  8. Dave W Baldwin

    This truly sets the cross platform you want that fits (at least proto) consumer choice.Improving that is just a matter of innovation and money. It comes down to those that want to spend a lot, or those that know how to do more for less.

  9. JimHirshfield

    Spot on. I rarely launch apps from directly. Almost always from notification pull down. It’s a beautiful thing. The integration with google apps is awesome!

  10. LIAD

    sounds like a meta-signal-filter.the notifications are grouped by app and not in a timeline i presume.curious how android decides the order of the apps notifications. is the same one always on top?do you have to manually remove each notification or do they degrade automatically?

    1. fredwilson

      Great questions. Can’t give a detailed answer right now. Get an android. Itslife changing if you are a power user

      1. Ron Zeligzon

        Fred, You have the Nexus S? what do you think of it? I have an older version, the Mytouch Fender, which I rooted and put the Cyanogen Mod Rom?

        1. fredwilson

          i love the nexus s

    2. avinash8891

      The notification are grouped by app and the order of apps is defined by time line.One can manually remove individuals notifications or else press the clear button at the top to delete all.

  11. Carl Rahn Griffith

    It is increasingly naive for any app/site developer to expect their solution/service to be a landing-page for most users – to avoid being swamped by noise/and to find time we need filters/alerts/etc – very true, Fred.We simply don’t have the bandwidth – nor desire – to surf umpteen web-sites; I remember, Fred, we discussed a few years ago the average number of web site ‘landing pages’ we frequented – I bet that number is diminishing further for not just ourselves but many other general consumers, also…

  12. Dan Epstein

    Push notification on iPhone could use some work. Getting a pop-up every time I get a text or twitter mention is obnoxious. It’d be nice to be able to control the notification settings (or ideally even more settings) on iPhone. I watched a friend do the “pull down” to check messages on his Android yesterday. Pretty sweet.

  13. Nikhil Nirmel

    App notifications lower the importance and relevance thresholds of what information gets pushed to me. The original telephone only delivered phone calls, perhaps the most relevant communication of all – someone seeking to converse with me. But phone calls are relatively infrequent. Then came text messaging, then email. Now an alert of where someone I would never ever call or even text has checked in. With each decrease in relevance comes an increase in information arrival frequency. While that cheapens the average inbound communication, it makes us feel ever more connected to the world around us. And feeling connected is not to be underestimated as motive for technology adoption from one perspective and a newly-emerging addiction from another.

    1. markslater

      this is why i am short on check ins. they give any number of totally irrelevant pieces of content the chance to invade my me space.I need to Gesture an INTENT before its ok for me to get this stuff. Checking in is not enough of an intent gesture and therefore is destined to be constantly creating relevance gaps.

    2. raycote

      Ever more complex filter/UI tricks may meet the needs of heavy social/info feed users. Most people on this forum probably fall into this user category.But for the rest of us pedestrian users, maybe it would be more appropriate to focus on distilling out a simpler core set of social graph functions that are sticky enough and practical enough to be commoditized for mass culture daily use. A notification dial-tone, a reduced instruction set of notifications with a lean simple, standardized dial-tone like, interface for the rest of us?

  14. Mark Essel

    This is part of the secret sauce of communication apps and the advantage of native over purely mobile web at the moment.Aggregation of updates and replies is totally doable with HTML. For mobile it’s dependant on the API of the device. Expect it in the next couple of years for all major providers. For now apps are still dominating in this area.

  15. andyswan

    Anyone else feel like at the base level, this has the same problems as all other communications that are used for marketing?Once telemarketers started calling, we paid less attention to the “ring”Once spammers started emailing, we paid less attention to the “ding”Once we started getting texts for score updates and twitters, we paid less attention to the “ching”Soon, once we allow everyone who is trying to get in our notifications bar, we’ll pay less attention to the “bling”.We have a tendency to exhaust the relevance of our own tools. I’m not really trying to make a larger point here….it’s up to us as users to manage our tools to relevance, but it’s also up to us as “marketers” to realize that most consumers (like me) aren’t capable of such self-control….and therefore the value of that “space” is almost always decreasing by definition.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s why the first notification spam filter is gonna be huge

      1. andyswan

        Isn’t that what android is?

        1. fredwilson

          No. They activate the channel but don’t filter them

          1. andyswan

            Right but the user can. Or you’re saying a filter that says “activate themall and we will only show the relevant “?

      2. Matt A. Myers

        Don’t you do this sorting by deciding what applications you have activated, and which ones you curate into your notification feed? It’s like turning off email notifications or am I missing something?

        1. matthewcp

          But few people do this. Email is currently a mess. Every new service I sign up for now automatically puts me on their monthly newsletter list — without my permission. I fix this by manually unsubscribing and then I report it as spam in gmail (I consider opting people into an email list to be spam, even if they downloaded your app).This is a huge nuisance and I doubt many people bother. We need to prevent the same thing from happening in app notifications.

          1. melissatran

            Do you know about Simplest, best thing ever. When you want to register for a site w/out being blasted w/their stuff, you can give them an email address like [email protected] – then go to, type the name you used in a box and they give you your mail – ie – the “click this link to verify your account” – that’s it. Done. No more spam. AND doesn’t even make you register. Love it.

          2. fredwilson

   makes this even easier

      3. ShanaC

        I totally bet it is going to be done by the same types of people who created lookout. They have a prioirty on security. Besides, depending on the app, notices could become a primary way where nasty web stuff (Worms) can be passed to you

      4. andrewwatson

        maybe not a spam filter but a relevancy filter like Google’s Priority Inbox?



        1. fredwilson

          maybe, but what if an app that i love, like google maps, starts spamming me with push messages. i don’t want to take the app off my phone

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


      6. sonicrickloclly

        I share in a patent on that (tho AOL owns it ;-/) called IM Catcher: #7,653,693 for “Managing Instant Messages” … perhaps functionality can be extendedrick –

    2. LIAD

      It’s an arms race.inner circle after concentric inner circle – ad infinitum. Each progressive sanctum gets violated so a new one is created.Just like there are always hoards of people trying to get into the VIP area of clubs – so with the VIP area of our attention.We’re the one’s holding the velvet rope – we just don’t know how to say no.You can’t win this war, merely stay a little ahead of those chasing you.

      1. karen_e

        Yup. It’s a race.



        1. LIAD


          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          2. markslater

            mark sais demote unwanted notifications to old way of doing things – email and inboxes. keep realtime pull – marry both – win big.

    3. markslater

      violently agree andy – i have visions of a bunch of rabid marketing zombies (think 28 days) running me down with shit i dont want.Let me gesture an interest, and then react.

    4. ShanaC

      Yes. It is why almost all of my notifications are off. I only want to know you are doing something if I want to know you. (don’t take this personally)OTOH, I think fred is very right about the idea of an easily managed inbox for notifications on a mobile phone. I seriously love the pulldown bar, and I wish more apps would use a similar UX for their notices/menu choices inside of the app itself. It is a brilliant use of menuing and space conservation

    5. falicon

      +1 to this thinking…am I the only one that hears people saying “I get too much email, I can’t deal with it all”…and then five minutes later, “I wish the X service was more like my email service”Time based views are interesting…but also only relevant in a VERY small set of situations (which, BTW, is a BIG gripe I have with the current state of social networks).Anyway – I don’t know the answers (yet)…but I can say that intelligent filters (ie. priority inbox) does feel like a big step in the right direction.Disclosure: Obviously I’m a big believer in the filter approach as the long term vision of the service I’m building is a “priority inbox for social data”.

      1. andyswan

        Very cool. Let me know when you can get me in the alpha/beta. andy [at]andyswan [dot] com

        1. falicon

          Just use the invite code ‘alpha’ when creating your account and you should get straight in (just keep in mind it’s still a ROUGH alpha and we’ve got a long way to go before we can feel like we’re close to a real priority inbox for social data — and in fact we are starting with just the small focus on pointing out stuff you might have missed, once we nail that, we’ll move to tackling more of the parts of a true priority inbox)We are letting in a good chunk of people right now — including all the comment board readers (which is why I’m posting this as a comment rather than a private email)…the community around here is too full of quality to not try and nab as many of them as I can as early alpha users =DAnyway – give it a try and let me know what you think! Thanks!

      2. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Interesting, Kevin – also raises the challenge how we differently manage real-time events/needs vs a more temporal experience?Often debated this during the early days of our start-up – frequently gave me a headache ๐Ÿ˜‰

        1. falicon

          I agree…it’s a very tough balance to figure out (and probably not something a machine is ready to handle – meaning it’s more about simple UI/UX to the levers for humans right now) looks great…are you still involved in the project? Would love to chat with you about it more…when you have time drop me an email at [info at falicon dot com]. Thanks!

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          2. fredwilson

            that is twitter’s approach. coming soon i hope

          3. Carl Rahn Griffith

            Hi, Kevin – agree re: being pragmatic, the importance of the UI/UX to convey this – which leads us back to the landing-page challenge, I guess – else, would have to be one hell of a slick app/widget(!).Thank you re: kind words re: ensembli – we like it and are very proud of it – there is an awful lot of clever stuff under its hood – we tried to keep the look as simple and elegant as possible, however, to ensure a wide skills-level audience would feel happy to use it.I will drop you an email over next day or so – look forward to chatting.Cheers!Carl

      3. Donna Brewington White

        Continually impressed with this product, Kevin. Amazing how intuitive this product seems to be. Was away from it for a brief while and my appreciation was rekindled upon returning.

        1. falicon

          So AWESOME to hear. Thank you so much!Please feel free to email me directly at any time if there’s anything we could do better with it for you (you have more links passing through your social streams than the average person for sure…so especially interesting to learn about your use case and if/how it’s working for you!)

          1. Donna Brewington White

            I still have to figure out WHY I have such a large collection!

    6. PC

      Filters and labels. That’s what saved me from my (gmail) inbox. Eventually the same will be needed for notifications.

    7. Dave W Baldwin

      There is a way around that Andy. It is, for lack of better word, a matter of different dimension. Slater is right (I’m so glad to finally hear someone type out what he did) regarding the next change coming is to true gesture/intent marketing.At the same time, you change the rules per your concerns listed above keeping things smooth for the User and allow the User to train their phone. Training will be easy.When you have this, you have the product that is more of a fluid vehicle that can change as things progress vs. the lead pipe methodolgy taking place currently (there will be plenty of big claims this summer) that forces the User to play by someone else’s rules and believe the stretch in product claim.

  16. Josh

    Push is evolving very quickly – definitely a game changer. We started the Xtify service on Android (was easiest for geo-push) and now have customers on all three major platforms. Some learnings from our early users:1. Need a cross-OS authoring tool – developers do not want to write services to all platforms seperately.2. Need a “safe-unsubscribe” feature, so I can turn off messaging without having to uninstall the app.3. Need an “Inbox” – so I can have a place where my pushes go if I am not ready to read them (or, in the case of coupons and offers, not ready to use them).4. Need analytics – I want to know open rates, action rates etc.. I also want to know the efficacy of messages sent out morning vs evening, at 2 hour intervals vs. 10 hours5. Need cadence control – i.e. need to be able to limit (server-side) how often I am sending messages, so I am not perceived as spamming my users.All of the above is before taking into account how much more targeting can be done with push on a mobile device that is collecting the geo-location of the device as well as other statistics. Definitely game changing.

    1. Dan

      thanks for sharing your learned insights. Have seen Xtify present around the city.

    2. ShanaC

      Shouldn’t safe-unsuscribe be required, depending on the app, because of the way Can-Spam is written. (oh I have the perfect person to question for that)

    3. fredwilson

      safe unsubscribe for push would be huge

  17. MatthewP

    You might want to give slidescreen a look, a home screen replacement centered around notifications.

    1. fredwilson

      For android?

      1. matthewcp

        Yes. However it has it’s limitations, namely that the notifications are limited to a set of services (sms, email, facebook, twitter, RSS feeds off the top of my head), otherwise you’ll get a normal notification.I’m not advocating it necessarily, but it’s a neat idea, well designed, and you might like it if you can get over the jar of losing the normal home screen.

  18. William Mougayar

    I don’t presume there’s anything from a technical perspective that prevents the iPhone from having similar features, with or without jailbreak.I like this concept of the notification in-box as long as it can be instrumented to remain as such. i.e. to be the tip of the information iceberg.Another useful recipient of this concept is intelligent alerting based on news events triggers, i.e. alert me if such and such happens to my competitors or whoever am tracking. There could be sophisticated rules behind all this which are manipulated by user-friendly agent tasks on the app side (we’re working on this at Eqentia).

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Was thinking the same thing. Simply allowing the user to decide what notices are priority and either remain sticky at the top or some sort of simple algorithm could be figured out…

  19. MParekh

    Great post and questions on notifications Fred. Another question I have is if notifications permit non-text elements (pictures, icons) etc. to be communicated, and if so, on which platforms. Think the HTML to mobile device is an important one as well.The other part I’ve wondered about is how notifications evolve on mobile platforms in terms of further functionality. Sharing, Analytics, multiple response buttons would be some obvious areas down the road.

    1. fredwilson

      Yup. This whole area is so ripe for game changing innovation. And dangerousfor FB and Twitter

      1. Dave W Baldwin

        Well put… and as I’ve said over and over, FB is not the end run. As you’ve said, it is a matter of (how) crossing the water.

  20. Hjon

    Good thoughts. To borrow a military term, what the notifications are giving you is situational awareness — and breaking these out into their own place is definitely huge.On the desktop we’ve wound up with email fulfilling this role, and it’s why we dread going to our inbox. Instead of having a mailbox full of conversations it’s full of notifications: X is following us on Twitter, our Amazon shipment is ready, Karen updated her Facebook status (again). It’s not so much noise as a different kind of signals, and we can process those much more efficiently when we’re in the same place. In the long term it can help make our email more valuable; wouldn’t you feel better about checking your mail if everything in there was a conversation to take part in and not something you just have to keep tabs on?While I’ve been kicking this situational awareness vs conversations idea around for a while it wasn’t until this framing as a notifications system that I realized we already had a good SA system in place. Thanks, Fred!

    1. Hjon

      (Sorry for the grammar errors — signals instead of signal, we’re instead of they’re)

  21. baba12

    You have to use WebOS to truly admire notifications. Of the 5 major smartphone OS’s out there personally I believe Webos is by far the superior one out there.Also developing for webOS is done using javascript and HTML.The new webOS will use javascript and HTML5 as the tools for app development making it easier for applications to be ported/developed to the webOS platform.If you have not played with a webOS you would be better served exploring it, just as you have done with a windows phone.If notifications are cool then the webOS method for notifications is the smoothest, logical and user friendly method that works to make one’s life less complex.

    1. matthewcp

      I think it’s a tie between WebOS and Android. It’s nice on WebOS that you can swipe away individual notifications (can’t do that on Android), but you can’t clear them all (which you can do on Android). I also feel that the Android slide down mechanism is a bit better because it tucks them away, whereas they stick out a little too much on WebOS.

    2. Peter Mullen

      I absolutely love the WebOS notifications. Apple hired away the chief WebOS notifications guru right after the HP acquisition. Look for iPOS to have a similar notification system soon.

    3. Jeffrey Cox

      I * lovee * my WebOS device in major part to the way it does notifcation. It lets serious business users and people seeking productivity to stay focsed. I agree with the others here, if you want to see notifications done right, WebOS is the place!

  22. Murat Mutlu

    So true, this is the only way I can see ‘local’ working, once the notification process is perfected

  23. Nate Quigley

    I have a Nexus S and play with it for dev purposes, but haven’t been able to break my iPhone habit. The notification drawer is useful and it’s great to see a platform do something other than copy iPhone. But I think I would still just prefer smarter badges that sit on iPhone app icons. I get annoyed at the extra step involved in the pull down drawer on Android.Think we’ll see a “hub” service like create an app whose sole purpose is to provide smarter notifications to the things you’re connected to and interested in?Don’t have a Windows Phone, but I think their tile UX is a smart foundation for this kind of stuff. Icons are good for launching, bad for informing.

    1. JamesT

      I use Boxcar for that already. It is the hub service for my notifications on my iPhone.

      1. Nate Quigley

        I’ll check it out. thanks.

        1. ShanaC

          you need to edit this,your email signature got attached

          1. Nate Quigley

            Thanks for the heads up. Looks like Sparrow includes email sig even in Quick Replies. Wish I knew how to turn that off.

  24. Alex Murphy

    Alerts to the status bar is excellent, one of my favorite applications on the Android … it really represents being connected without having to “go out and get it” on the web …On the front of mobile alerts, have you seen ToothTag? They presented at Launch last week in San Fran with an Application that works based upon proximity. It uses all of the wireless devices around you to know where you are, so you can tag the wifi at the coffee shop and it will know you are there, tag your computer when you walk up and it will unlock it for you, put an old bluetooth ear piece in your car and it will mark your parking spot when you get out and walk away giving you directions back to it. Its a company to take a look at, download their app in the Android App store.

  25. markslater

    I think we need to break this down in two ways:First there are the functional aspects. I know less about this so i’ll leave it to UI/UX people but i side with your argument about a fundamental re-think of the home screen.Second – and for me far more important is the relevance of the content that comes in to your notifications.We are all fast moving towards a place where notifications are responses to our real time interests and actions. But i see it more like a continuous stream of “pulls” against an interest or intent that i have previously push out in to my graph.push frankly opens up the floodgates to a fraternity of marketers trying to impose old world message bombardment on a new way of doing things. thats really scary.I dont want anything i have not explicitly asked for. I live in (some might say a delusional) world where i believe the next generation of marketing BEGINS when i gesture intent – not the other way around. The company that focuses on this – and provides the user with a stream of relevance in response to a gesture of interest changes the game forever. really.

    1. RichardF

      couldn’t agree more ๐Ÿ˜‰

    2. jonathanmendez

      “push frankly opens up the floodgates to a fraternity of marketers trying to impose old world message bombardment on a new way of doing things. thats really scary.”As paid search’s success has shown the next generation of marketing does/did begin at gesture intent. You’ve articulated really well why it works and the underlying paradigm change of the user controlled medium called the web – a change that so many marketers (and VC) refuse to understand.

      1. markslater

        Well then we have to make them understand it!i posted last week about this. If you dont get that fundamental tennet of gesture intent, then you wont like my company!

        1. PhilipSugar

          I really like that phrase. Marketing starts when I gesture intent. That’s going to be one of those snippets I add to my vocabulary, like “clients make partners”

        2. Dave W Baldwin

          I knew you and I see the along the same line… good job!

      2. markslater

        just read your article from january jonathan – great read – thanks.what we are doing is taking a tiny (mobile) intent gesture. (you and i want to eat Italian tonight) and farming this out to an audience of local merchants eager to win your business (using text and notifications to the merchant phone).the response i get back from these merchants is far more interesting to me and has far higher value downstream than if i were to gesture my location and see curated “stuff” floating around me – most of which has nothing to do with the fact that i am looking for Italian.

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          1. Dave W Baldwin

            Mark is right…and there is a way to do it ;D

        2. kidmercury

          really love the vision you have your for your mobile app, i agree totally.

        3. James Alexander Levy

          Getabl could work, but the name has got to change…

  26. Eric Roach

    On the internet side, over at Xydo we implemented a notification engine primarily geared toward user engagement. Our first take was to pop them and stream them down the page.It became annoying and ate up prime content space on the page.We changed this to a single stripe which the user can rotate in at their discretion and a tab where they all can be viewed. User response to the change was dramatically positive.In mobile, where screen real estate is at a higher premium, this is a must.Like Fred, I have stopped allowing iPhone notifications for the same reason, but I would allow if done as described in the article.

  27. bradburnham

    Notifications are great because the make the user the center of the universe not the app. In the beginning users had to think about hardware, then operating systems, eventually just applications. As new user experiences that integrate information from multiple applications in a push powered user centric view take hold, the only thing users will need to think about is data. That’s all good except that, as Andy points out, we already deal with too much data. This only going to get worse as people who want our attention figure out that they they can get at us through any application. The answer is not going to be user configurability. That is too much work.The answer is to take advantage of context. The other magic capability of a mobile device is that it knows more about your context than any other device in history. If a device knows where you are and can intuit what you are likely doing, it can filter those notifications on the fly.User centered application independent notification is very cool. Filtered by context it is a game changer.

    1. Elia Freedman

      Isn’t that, really, what makes smart phones and tablets so amazing? It is my device and I expect it to work my way. It is a very user-centric device.



    2. fredwilson

      maybe we should just have our strategy session this week out here in disqusland

    3. Steve Poland

      Like 4SQ pushing to tell me a swarm is happening right near me, or a special is occurring at one of my favorite checkin spots nearby.I like it Brad.

  28. Dan

    I was shocked to do a “find on page” for the word location and only come up with one comment.The applications to break through the “spam” will be ones which utilize pushed features that are relevant to as many variables as possible – personalized, time of day dependent, AND a person’s location. The possibilities seem wide open – so much more than just a coupon being pushed to me as a I walk past a store front…

    1. fredwilson

      yup. check out xtify

  29. ShanaC

    One of the really large issues with all of this is control. My concept of what is a good notice is not going to be your concet. Meanwhile, as we’re already seeing from many social apps, although we want fine grained controls, we’re also impatient when it comes to using them.I really wouldn’t mind seeing median settings preset and partially hidden for these issues at all, just to move users forward with how to customize controls.

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      There is a way to do that and it figures it is a lady who brings this up. All the guys are focused on one feature/one purpose that will splinter into confusion. It is more logical to enable one with a simpler tool that delivers per the easiest method of request.Good job.

      1. ShanaC

        A high complement. Thank you. Even as a somewhat feminist, I still doubtthat the reason I thought of that relates to my gender. I know of plenty ofmen who can think about products and features that way too.

        1. Dave W Baldwin

          No, there are guys who can get it, they tend to be more art oriented seeing more than one plane to subject at hand.Sometimes when guys complain about gals saying they see things cloudy, it is a matter of being able to see the picture inside.By the way, here is one one on Watson, just in case you missed:… which brings next link re is bigger better (Watson vs. Wolfram)

  30. Ed Cooke

    It would be interesting to be able to have a greater repertoire of ways of drawing your attention to a notification than merely the two extremes of deliberately checking in on them, or having your phone buzz to tell you one’s arrived. If we’re to handle a vast number of calls to action from a single place, would be nice to have lots of different ways of having our attention drawn into that space.Would be nice, for instance, to have a way of feeling the notifications in your phone like you feel the objects in your pockets: present to the mind, but not intruding except where context merits it.

  31. rfreeborn

    Fred -Your wish is the markets command re: a “twitter-ish” home screen for Android

    1. Todd

      Installed it, not really a power user like Fred in regards to messaging etc. but it’s an interesting application.Think it has some UX issues but I would like to hear what Fred thinks about it.

      1. rfreeborn

        I would tend to agree re: power user – though it’s in the right direction.I’m an ex-BB user that has migrated to ‘Droid (waited till the Droid Pro and it’s AWFUL battery life – actually thinking about going back to BB!) and what I miss most is:1 – something like the “Today” theme from BB. I’ve put it together with a couple different apps including the Agenda view from Business Calendar Beta.2 – A truly power user email tool. I’ve done K9, Touchdown, MailDroid Pro and one or two others.There is a new suite in beta right now from a local (NYC) company that just went live @ Demo – Enterpriod. I’d be interested in *just* their productivity suite – and willing to pay if it’s good – beyond the Enterprise management tools!

    2. fredwilson

      cool. i’ll check it out

  32. hungrygardener

    wondering what you think of using SMS as a transport layer for notifications? I built a sms network that allows anyone via sms to register their phone, set location on google map, set sharing circle radius around their location and then text what they have, want or would like to talk about followed by keyword or phrase of their own choosing. System then gathers all the messages together and exchanges them between users based on location, overlap of sharing circles and common topic of interest. Exchanged messages come in as new text message. Users can then direct text each other without revealing their mobile phone number. They system supports both public and private messaging. Public text messages are displayed at user’s vanity url. Private messages are only matched with other private messages and exchanged as new incoming text messages. A internet user can use vanity url to compose text message that comes to your mobile phone.Our plan call for API to allow other applications to use SMS as transport layer as well as message match technology, LBS features and text to web publishing. It appears that SMS may provide a ubiquitous protocol that could provide the underlying bus for a notification like system that you speak of.

    1. markslater

      this is interesting. what is the company?

      1. hungrygardener

        For best information see my blog at http://hungrygarden.typepad…. You can access right from the blog, get details on SMS command, etc. Seems like it may be appropriate for what you are working on. You can follow me on twitter @hungrygarden

        1. markslater

          we have built a command library as well. We considered allowing people to define and create their own commands but decided against it some time ago. SMS has the ability to be a very powerful CLI in to a world of apps.

    2. Murat Mutlu

      I think the problem here isn’t the idea, it’s SMS. You can’t control how SMS is delivered, it is always intrusive, you can’t differentiate between texts from friends etc. Wrote a post on it while it will never work for LBS…

    3. fredwilson

      i think SMS is a dying communications channel. i think it will continue to be used for many years. but it costs money and there is very little innovation in the channel because the carriers control it.

      1. hungrygardener

        Great points and I totally agree. Nevertheless, sms is not dying in emerging markets where there are literally billions of users whose only data channel is sms. Delivering sms option with mobile version provides way to reach underserved market and continue to serve those customers as they upgrade phone/tech knowledge. No doubt dealing with telecoms is total pain and costly.

  33. @billg

    Fred, I know you are not a big fan of wristwatches, but a connected watch- a wirelessly-enabled watch that connects to the Web through your phone – is a simple & convenient way to consume notifications, particularly when you are on the go.The mobile experience is already morphing into an ecosystem of different ‘screens’. When I get into my car my dashboard becomes my mobile display; when I go home, my TV becomes my mobile display. So, its not unreasonable for a watch display to deliver notifications when you are truly ‘on the go’. A simple glance at your watch is one easy method for deciding whether you need to act on that notification now or later.BTW, there are a number of start ups and existing watch companies focusing on developing these products. You’ll see a number of these hit the market this year.

    1. markslater

      I’ve seen one from Canada – it aggregated some notifications on to your watch. It might be good for “billboarding” but i cant see a future with people interacting with the watch.

      1. @billg

        I’m not suggesting people interact with their watch instead of a phone; quite the opposite. What I’m suggesting is a watch is a simple tool for helping you determine which notification demands your immediate attention. For those that do, you reach into your pocket just like you do today.For the many that don’t a quick glance told you all you need to know.The problem is one of scale. Pulling your phone out of your pocket a few times each day isn’t a problem. But it does become a problem when you begin receiving 100, 200, or more mobile notifications each day.This isn’t exact science, but I’m guessing Pareto’s Principle (the 80/20 rule) probably applies here: 20% of the notifications we receive are important and may require an immediate response; the other 80% can wait. In other words, there’s a lot of signal AND noise and there’s no doubt we will see a massive increase in both occurring in the near future.Today we solve the problem one of two ways: we pull the phone out for everything or we miss a bunch. What I’m suggesting is a simple glance at your watch may well result in you pulling out your phone fewer times each day. The side benefit being your phone battery will likely last much longer.A connected watch won’t be the only solution created to address this problem; and, it may not appeal to all, but it will likely appeal to some.

        1. Nate Quigley

          I want one!

      2. David Rosales

        All smartphone users are trying to deal with information overload, and notifications are part of this. There is a lot of signal, but too much signal to keep up with. The result is that important, time-sensitive notifications go un-noticed until much later when they have far less value.No amount of filtering or priority sorting can deliver a MUST-SEE notification when your screen is off and in your pocket or bag. No vibration sequence or special ring tone will help you notice your phone’s attempts to attract your attention when walking a city street.Additional delivery methods are needed as well as intelligent filtering and sorting!The wrist is a great location for the delivery of the most important class of notifications and alerts. A watch can, executed correctly, augment a phone in these important areas a phone is deficient today: Tactile alerts you can’t miss, a display that can be read in the brightest sun, glanceable interface, hands-free operation, always-at-the-ready actions for apps/web services, and a design that feels good to wear (and be seen wearing).This will happen soon and it will be part of the overall solution we need.

    2. fredwilson

      my phone is my wristwatch and it doesn’t have to bother me on my wristi’ve tried wearing watches on and off for forty years since i got my first one on my tenth birthdayit is torture for me to have something on my wrist. i absolutely hate the feeling

      1. @billg

        I get it….I’ve got the same issue with ties.

  34. kirklove

    Gruber just referenced this site the other day:…It gives the nod to WebOS over Android. Regardless, you’re spot on in that improved notifications will be big. No one has figured it out perfectly yet. Not even Android.

    1. fredwilson

      i dont’ read gruber. apple’s PR machine. yuck

  35. Mo Jangda

    > Can HTML apps use the notification channel?…Chrome-only at this point, but I’d imagine this will get adopted on Android and other platforms

  36. andrewwatson

    HTML apps can do notifications… if you use Notifo (YC) to send them. It’s a great system built by my friends Chad Etzel and Paul Stamatiou.Notifo abstracts the push messaging task to a simple API call that your web app can make. It gives the user the ability to opt out of notifications later or to categorize and prioritize how/when/where to get your messages.I’m not an investor or co-founder but I’m a big fan of the system. They’ve been searching for investment dollars for some time now so I’m not sure what their current state is but you should check them out. check out the Notifo plugin I wrote for OpenVBX: and the presentation I wrote about using it:

    1. Paul Stamatiou

      Was just going to comment and mention Notifo but of course Andrew beat me to it! Imagine I said the same thing..

    2. fredwilson

      i would like to see twilio offer push to their developers

      1. andrewwatson

        as in iOS and/or Android push notifications? those are tricky becausethey’re not sent to the device but to the app installed on the device. no app… no push notifications.I posited the idea back in January that GroupMe should buy/licenseNotifo and use it as an alternate to SMS to cut down on their costs…and then they went ahead and did something similar without Notifo.I have been pursuing the idea of Webhooks with the Twilio team for anumber of things (most of which aren’t public knowledge yet) and Ithink in general it’s a very good idea. Chargify makes good use ofwebhooks for subscription status changes for example.Andrew Watson…

    3. Browser Not Included

      Hi Andrew,I’ve built a service for publishers/app developers to use Notifo’s channels, along with other channels to enable pushes from their site/app. Paul and Chad have built a great API that I’m using and I’m hoping it will only get better and better. It’s call Push Channels:http://pushchannels.comCheers,-Kavih

  37. Elia Freedman

    I have no affiliation with these guys except I know a bunch of their team but you should check out Urban Airship ( They are doing some interesting things with notifications. Not that your name wouldn’t be enough but just tell me if you want an intro to the CEO.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      Urban Airship is a great name.

    2. fredwilson

      our friends at Foundry are investors. great investment

  38. bryc3

    the best feature backberry ever had was the blinking red light. Tim loves his android. I’ll have to check his out.

  39. Jack Eisenberg

    Mobile has changed the paradigm of information consumption, production, and sharing, and I think that notifications, interest filters, AND GPS are the major reason for this.If businesses want to re-think old media like classifieds or marketplaces, these three features are a must. Notify me of the stuff I want, where I am. A word to all the old ad businesses out there: Mobile ads invade personal space. Don’t screw it up.

  40. ethanyc

    As noted below, I think notifications needs a “priority inbox”-like filtering feature. Many notifications are on a good-to-know but not in-the-moment basis, so if you are busy doing something, set your “status” as busy and the lower-priority notifications get filtered out to be read later.Another thing I think is important is how much data these background apps use. I would guess not a lot now (but going to go up in the future); but as we are entering a world of tiered, not unlimited data plans, how is that going to affect the way we use these features?

    1. fredwilson

      we need unlimited data plans



    1. Dave W Baldwin

      Good suggestion

    2. fredwilson

      i’m looking at and worrying about all of this



  42. Dave Pinsen

    There’s an NYC start-up designed to provide notifications for health reminders (taking medicines, etc.): Get Minders.

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      That’s a good idea. Hell, there are times I question if that was the third scoop of coffee grinds I poured in the filter or not….

      1. Jesse Middleton

        Actually things like that are more important than you’d think. I mean the amount of coffee that you drink can seriously affect your health.I’m actually one of the founders of GetMinders and our goal is to help people build healthier habits through simple, helpful nudges, personal information and your social support network (could be family, friends, doctors or nurses). But at the base it’s all based on reminders that get pushed to you through text or phone calls right now.One of the biggest challenges we face with iPhone users is just this — the notification system on the iPhone is not very good. On Android, people get the option of keeping them in the background and responding later in a simple manner.

        1. Dave W Baldwin

          Heck, I was just complaining about early dementia. Good luck

    2. fredwilson

      great idea

      1. Jesse Middleton

        Well, we appreciate it! It’s quite a large undertaking but we’re already making some progress around the country with people from 17-86 years old. That makes us happy. ๐Ÿ™‚

  43. Rich LeFurgy

    How about mobile notifications on plain old wireless handsets like AT&T announced in the US yesterday in partnership with placecast? Don’t have to use apps…

    1. fredwilson

      hmm. is that good or bad? will marketers spam us via this channel?

  44. daryn

    The android notifications are fantastic. Very well done.I wish I could use the lock screen better, like have it be the expanded notifications window or the widget screen, like we used to be able to do on old-school windows mobile and other first-gen smartphones, but neither iPhone nor Android seems able to do that.

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, i don’t love the lock screen either

      1. Emily Merkle

        but would that not defeat the purpose of a lock screen?C’mon – it’s not that hard to slide that bar over… ๐Ÿ™‚

  45. Arik Fraimovich

    You’re spot on with your observation that push notifications for apps can be a game changer. I saw the effect that notifications on Facebook’s platform had on retention for Facebook apps, and it’s the same with push notifications for any other sort of app.As for push notifications for web apps — you need an app on the device to be able to send push notifications to your users, but web app developers can use excellent services such as Boxcar to send their notifications without a dedicated app.Also, I think that as smart phones become more popular, app developers will start utilizing more push notifications instead of emails (which was the push channel until now). It will give great value to both the developers and the users. Exciting times ahead ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Emily Merkle

      I really do not know what apps you are using..but I have no problems setting notifications as I like – sound, visual…do tell!!

  46. reece

    BACN tastes GOOD.The reason Facebook was so successful early on was how great their bacn was – “you’ve been poked” “you have a new friend request.” – they continually brought users back into the app.Mobile apps are getting buried in folders and pages – the only way to compete is to engage the user.That being said – I think iOS will/should eventually move to a notification based UI (vs. the current app UI). I remember seeing a mocked-up concept UI for this a long time ago – can’t find the link now though…

  47. Laurent LATHIEYRE

    Interesting post…Yes, Android notification system is better thant Apple’s one.” Can HTML apps use the notification channel? Can developers get access to this notification channel and start to build filters and other obvious applications that we will all want and need when this becomes our primary way we use the mobile device?”My company has developed a SaaS communication platform doing โ€”ย along other things โ€”ย cross-platform cross-device push communication (notifications, “silent” notifications like system configs…). We’ve built our own infrastructure and protocole, allowing for instance to push to Samsung Smart TV, HTML5 Widgets, Android, iOS apps…

    1. Emily Merkle

      cool. love cloud (yes?)what filters are you incorporating?gl…

  48. Scott Kveton

    We’ve been giving a lot of thought to the future of mobile notifications well.This is going to be a big space and its just heating up. That said, there is a lot of heavy lifting to do to make it go. The current complexities of each of the platforms is just a start. So many people are trying to make notifications work by applying what worked with SMS and email. Its just not the same; your smartphone is an intent-driven device:

    1. fredwilson

      i liked your blog post Scott. commented on it.

  49. Shane Mac

    Fred,I am an iPhone user. I totally agree with you.I just wanted to point out that this unified alerts box is not unique to Android.The new BlackBerry Torch has the exact same bar and functions (disclaimer: the only reason I know this is because I know work for RIM w/ the recent acquisition of Gist)So, I completely agree with you and now that I have a BlackBerry, that single feature has been the ah ha moment for me. I’m not making judgements about the usability of Android/BlackBerry nor am I talking about who will become the market leader. Just wanted to let you know of other platforms attacking this in the exact same way and yes, I’m sure iPhone is soon to have it.P.S. Sent from my iPhone. Thanks, Shane Mac

    1. fredwilson

      yup. and webOS apparently has done it even better.

  50. Jonathan Karon

    It strikes me that this is, in essence, the News Feed for apps.I’d love to see 20 or so different algorithms for sorting, ranking, and filtering notifications, sold as apps by various clever developers, so I can try different approaches and tailor the feed to my wants.

    1. fredwilson

      the facebook news feed replacement?what disrupts facebook? a contact book and a news feed on your phone connected to each and every app on it?maybe yes, maybe no

      1. Emily Merkle

        yes. do not want apps x news x contacts….need personalized segregation.

    2. Emily Merkle

      I want to hand-select my sources…white list, as it feeds…sick of GOOG’s definition of “news”….

  51. Joe Lazarus

    Mobile notifications are a killer app. In order for them to really take hold, they need to work across operating systems and the “subscribe” action needs to be available in HTML (ex. subscribe to a stock price alert from Google Finance on a Mac & receive the alert on an Android phone). I’m picturing a little “subscribe” button that developers could put on webpages or in mobile apps that opens a dialog box where we can choose where to send (mobile device notifications, SMS, desktop notifications, etc) and interruption settings (audio alert, vibrate only, etc). If you switch from Android to the iPhone, those subscriptions and settings should transfer over.I agree that the notifications timeline would make for a much more interesting mobile home page, too.

    1. Guest

      nice idea, and this is probably more consumer friendly than say subscribe to RSS Feed

    2. fredwilson

      ooh. awesome idea

    3. gbattle

      This is a notification system I can get behind Joe.App platform and device agnostic notification *protocol*, not just an API. Just as mobile/desktop/tablet OSs leverage IMAP, XMPP, SSH etc., they’ll leverage this protocol also. There are too many corporate layers, and not enough open ones.I think Jeremie Miller (creator of XMPP) might be heading in this direction with Singly over the real opensource (not fauxpen) Telehash system (“a new wire protocol for exchanging JSON in a real-time and fully decentralized manner, enabling applications to connect directly and participate as servers on the edge of the network”).I hope that he is.

  52. Anu Nigam

    Hi Fred,We are launching a startup doing a Android Notification SDK in this space this weekend at Android DevCamp. If you are interested in learning more, let me know.Anu

  53. im2b_dl

    the next big one…location based mobile notification systems and AR. (I spend a third of my day on it for the last year)

  54. daryn

    Fred – are you running Gingerbread yet? Holy crap, so much more responsive, way better keyboard, and overall feeling almost (almost) iphone like!

    1. fredwilson

      not yet

  55. The Complex Days

    Maybe someone already mentioned this, but you seem to be talking about the need for a single stream which collects and displays all your digital life. David Gelernter has championed this notion.The notifications would be the ยซpulseยป of the stream, which eventually would incorporate everything one did online. Ultimately the sources/services of notifications wouldn’t matter anymore, just the communication between us and the world.

    1. fredwilson

      yup, that is what i am talking about

      1. The Complex Days

        David Gelernter puts it best:”Theme of the Second Age now approaching: computing transcends computers. Information travels through a sea of anonymous, interchangeable computers like a breeze through tall grass. A dekstop computer is a scooped-out hole in the beach where information from the Cybersphere wells up like seawater.”text :…@DLD, Munich 2011, video…

    2. Emily Merkle

      don’t want it, for a variety of reasons:- data needs to be parsed on an individual basis- relevancy is of great import – even GOOG struggles with that now- what single SaaS or platform or provider would host this massive stream of data…or would it be individual feeds?eh..I just think it is one half step too fluid for me…

  56. rymcghee

    My wife just got the iPhone on Verizon, and I was blown away by how weak the notifications are compared to android and webOS. No external LED and no indicators on the lock screen – you actually have to pick up the device and swipe to unlock before you even get an opportunity to see notifications, and then it’s still not very easy to get a quick status. Having said that, I won’t be the least bit surprised if the next iteration of iOS leapfrogs everyone else and finds a way to take notifications to an entirely different level.

    1. fredwilson

      i sure hope socompetition FTW

    2. Emily Merkle

      ummm – you have the option to remove lock. why would you want them exposed and at the same time lock for security?takes 5 seconds..and what notifications are so hard to get to?

  57. Justin Long

    As a question, have you looked at how Windows Phone 7 operates the lock screen? And display of the notifications on the hubs?The idea of having a centralized location to updates is smart, but it would be more important to group and filter like content, and have that work smarter. I enjoy how Android brought notifications in, but it’s just a grouping of unrelated content, much like keeping all email in the inbox.There should be 3 places to view updates, in the application, in an application/content grouping, and all updates. Something that can do that and do it in an easy and flexible way is a surefire winner.

    1. fredwilson

      i did use the Win7 phone for a while but then gave it to my brotheri like a lot of what they did with the UI

    2. Emily Merkle

      iPhone achieves objective 1, and 3. In terms of grouping content, it does so for social. You are asking for individual apps to operate with a contextual filter?hmm…dunno – why do you need 3 ways to view the same content?Is anyone really that busy? It’s not difficult to nav …

  58. Ron Feldman

    Fred – I couldn’t agree more on the importance of notifications and it’s a core part of a post I’m working on regarding what Apple needs to fix on the iPhone. I think that the continued success of SMS is due to the ability to set unique notifications for SMS on almost every device. Apple has a lot of catching up to do here.Regarding personal context though, I agree for phones, but I think that the iPad and other tablets present a challenge when they are shared as a family or multi-user device. I think user profiles is a big missing component on the iPad, but imagine if this was implemented it would present a challenge for alerts. As it stands now, my wife and I see each others alerts on our iPad all the time, which can be confusing and I wonder if she misses some important ones when I see them.

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, i think the tablet OS needs to allow for user login

  59. daryn

    Also, just saw this on lifehacker – exactly what I want in mobile notification / lock screen integration:!577…”MobileNotifier is a complete re-write of the iOS notifications system and it’s pretty amazing. It takes inspiration from Android’s notification system while adding the elegance of iOS, preventing notifications from interrupting you and allowing you to easily respond from a drop-down drawer.”

    1. fredwilson

      there you goi suspect this will be in every mobile OS soon enough

  60. Sasha Chh

    I COMPLETELY agree with you, this is where you can truly see how an Android phone is not only made usable by multitasking, but it adds something more, unlike the iPHone which limits you to doing one thing at a time. very primitive

  61. Victor Olex

    Top half of home screen on my Android phone is used by calendar agenda widget, the bottom half has six most frequently used apps. I think having the whole screen as a combination of clock, calendar and notifications would be perfect. The most frequently used apps and the apps that are currently running should be available from a pull-down bar. HTC Sense clock in desk mode should be outfitted with icons summarizing notifications such as number of emails from selected groups of contacts, twitter mentions, number of news articles from preferred RSS feeds etc. in addition to streaming one line notifications of the same in real time if so desired. All in gray & white palette so it unobtrusive and can sit in a cradle or supported by kickstand and work as a mini dashboard-clock. Occasionally an icon could turn color such as for a new email in starred email thread or a meeting invite. Business oriented and otherwise busy people such as myself would gladly pay $29 or more for flawlessly working and highly configurable app like that.

    1. fredwilson

      ooh. i never thought about putting the calendar on my home screen. might give that a try.

      1. Victor Olex

        There are (too) many calendar widgets. One that I found offers sufficient flexibility and fair design choices is Android Agenda Widget by Rolf Harrisson…No affiliation whatsoever, just satisfied user.

  62. Carson McDonald

    The W3C has been working on EventSource to address this in HTML:… It specifically calls out mobile browsers. The last version of iOS introduced support for Safari and Chrome supports it as well.

    1. fredwilson


  63. Steve Ridder

    How would a company monietize this? I’ve looked at this for years and it’s not easy to make a business out of it. I even proposed a solution called “helium” that would let the most important messages (based off your social graph: who you interact with most often, the topics you care most about, documents or ‘posts’ you might want to read but never knew existed [similar to how Amazon or Netflix recommends books and movies]) rise to the top of this ‘inbox’ years before Google did it’s priority messages in Gmail. I never found a way to charge for it.

    1. fredwilson

      i think this is part of the OS. it doesn’t get monetized

  64. Guest

    maybe this is how google will implement their searching before you actually search for anything, they will push stuff to us via notifications.

  65. monsur

    I would like to see the same for internet TV apps such as Boxee. The currently model of visiting individual “apps” is cumbersome. I would instead like to subscribe to sources/channels (as you do now), but then browse the newest content from all channels (like Cable TV’s guide, or Facebook’s news feed for TV).

    1. fredwilson

      i agree with you and boxee agrees with you. stay tuned.

  66. Pooya Kazerouni

    If you think that’s a game changing trend, then you’d probably like

  67. NICCAI

    I said in jest recently that apps are the new bookmarks. Really, there are a number of parallels. It’s the chosen few that bubble up to the bookmarks bar, while the rest are left untended in a sea of folders (if you’re that lucky). I’ve tried standalone apps, but I usually lose interest if they can’t breath outside of my chosen device (usually an iphone). Mobility to me is not just carrying the app in my pocket but also shifting between devices. It’s content shifting and context shifting.I see a notification framework as a key linkage point for crosstalk between apps. If it isn’t the web, then Apple really needs to figure this out. Without organic linking between apps, they will remain as portals to web services, and ultimately native code will not remain a competitive edge in the apps vs web debate.When it comes to a notification UI, I’m most interested in something I call relevance bubbling. As volume of notifications/emails/tweets increases, the need to bubble relevant content becomes more and more important. It may use time as context, or frequent contact (like priority inbox), but it involves external, location, and reward context as well.Fred, thanks for the thought provoking post…it’s discussions like this that make me churn.

    1. fredwilson

      i agree that apps are bookmarksthat’s the web loyalists in us talkingi hope we are right

      1. Emily Merkle

        are you choosing OS over apps as the mobile game-changer?

  68. Steve Poland

    Seems like for the web, Facebook could (should) be the notify channel since we have been all connecting (tying) all our accounts on web services to them.

  69. Steve Poland

    Mobile and Web notifications will eventually unclutter your email inbox. Entrepreneur intro’s from your contacts could come via a service (hashable), notes/updates from portfolio companies via another service (?), songs people recommend you hear (soundcloud), suggestions to your requests for favorites (myfavorites), …

  70. Donna Brewington White

    Are there any apps for Disqus notifications? It’s becoming a social media platform in its own right.

    1. fredwilson

      Yes. There’s a Disqus app for iPhone and android that does push notification

  71. .LAG

    I think HP/Palm webOS does the BEST notifications of any mobile platform… it’s just a shame that the relative market share, and interest, in that software platform makes it irrelevant, at this time. Beta lost out to VHS too, so the best technology doesn’t always win.

  72. Emily Merkle

    Hello Fred,I have not experienced the Android – but I can attest that the iPhone4 apps can be configured to notify you in the same, unobtrusive manner. eg) phone message – marked but do not pop up…same with mail.Ditto for AP application/CNN/Hootsuite/Twitter/Foursquare/Facebook/LinkedIn/Tweetdeck/Tumblr .. you get the picture. You just have to modify each apps’ notification & sound settings as you wish…Have you tried this and found the iPhone still lacking?

  73. Emily Merkle

    oh – and new iphone improvement – space saving on home screen with a “utilities” app-box that can hold/compress several apps – like notes, calendar, calculator..same exists for social media

  74. dbriere

    The model for notifications in general is very backwards, in fact 180 degrees backwards. The model has been all about going places, giving them your personal information like phone numbers, email addresses, etc., and having them send you info. It really needs to flip and be about having readily accessible choices of opt-in information streams and having these sent to you where and how you want them. Flipping that model really is integral to ramping information flows to the mobile phone or elsewhere too, because you need to have more semblance of control. To do this, you need a different model for getting in front of users. To us, this all ties to the way Groups are handled — whether they are groups of interest, organized groups, or even spontaneous groups. We think groups are the real core here for where the next age of social nets is going, and we’re seeing proof of that all over, whether it’s in the form of group texting, group coupons, group checkins, etc. You really need to have some organizational paradigm in front of all these notifications or it fails. But it’s not just about notifications, IMHO, but also Contacts and Calendaring items — these are notification streams of a similar ilk. You need the same paradigm in front of these to organize your life. Once you have that in place, you can do some really neat things to own big spaces.

  75. andyidsinga

    It seems that in many apps and tools we need 3 three things:- volume control- noise filtering- time controlWhen something is too loud i turn down the volume. My stereo, the number of people i follow on twitter, the number of blogs i follow. These all seem to be volume level problems.When i can’t control the volume level, or want to only hear /see certain things i use a filter. on twitter i save searches. On the web i set up a google alert. With my noisy power tools ( table saw ) I use hearing protection – yes – a type of noise filter :)Finally, i use tools that help manage time – read later for , well, reading stuff later :). the flags and labels features in email … calendar and reminder tools.

    1. Tom Limongello

      Actually the one OS we haven’t been talking about is Nokia, probably for good reason, but Nokia has on its new devices / QT platform something called ‘situations’ (not the jersey shore kind), which enable a device to have a set of settings for ringer, sms alert, launch application, open bookmark, homescreen theme, and powersaving, which can be set for different time of day, week etc. This would apply to everything on the phone, so similar to shutting off all notifications on the iPhone this would be a more finetuned way of having saved settings for all noise on the device. I think the OSs can do a lot to make notifications more personalized for the users, but there’s still some burden on the apps themselves to think of how, when and why to notify. Potentially some intelligence as to the user’s usage and history could help automate the app’s ability to have it’s own etiquette.

      1. andyidsinga

        The ‘situations’ thing sounds really interesting ..and your point about usage and history. Using some contextual information as part of the decision making process to notify / not notify is very powerful.I wish I had more context control on my iphone to control when the text msg receive sound is allow to play on a per-sender basis. I guess context falls under the filtering category ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. Peter

      Nice categorization. On you have an ugly interface but you have noise filtering (deduplication on our back ends, language filter, sort against retweets) and time control (relaxed saved searches).Now I should work on kicking temporarly away some followers to do an even more useful friend search (volume control) ๐Ÿ™‚

  76. Tom Limongello

    Wow I missed a great post and discussion, thanks Fred for linking to it again in tonight’s 3/6 post. This discussion will be a great resource for a discussion on Tuesday 3/15 at SXSW interactive. Hopefully notifications for this post are still on :-)…Bump, FoodSpotting, NearVerse and Turner / CNN will be talking about how apps could potentially do some of the heavy lifting for making notifications less intrusive or potentially to fine tune them better. You’ve already gotten a lot of comments about WebOS and RIM along with Android having notifications better built into their architecture than iOS, but the fact that iOS hasn’t solved the notifications problem (at all) makes the case for apps doing their best to manage their own signal.To me, those apps that fine tune best will stand out on iOS and perhaps on other platforms as well. The app or mobile Web interface for a particular service is still an important UX battlefield not to be dismissed for OS solutions or even widgets just yet. We might take the recent issue of Twitter’s trends notification overlay being too prominent in the Twitter for iPhone app as to create a backlash and forced resubmission to the app store as a first example of how app developers might consider putting more thought into how they could better notify. Notification seems important even within their own apps rather than rely on the OS to mediate messaging lest those apps just get dis-intermediated by cameras, home screens and email clients.

  77. Chris Phenner

    For those still following this comment stream, Lifehacker profiled a more Android-like notifications app for iOS device called MobileNotifier, FYI.

    1. fredwilson

      better than boxcar?

  78. Punit Shah

    It’s most definitely an up and coming space. My question, and rather that of my company is whether there be an intelligent agent that keeps an eye on our digital life while we continue to live in the tangible world?If any of you have seen Iron Man, you know how Jarvis tied everything together for Tony Stark – this is what motivated us to start Zazu, an information agent that turns disparate information into relevant alerts across any system to tell users whatโ€™s next.We’re starting out small; we’ve created a mobile application called Zazu that uses voice to present users with information from their calendars, email, weather and new and social media.The interaction between humans and technology in the future is probably one of the most exciting things going on – lets see how alerts today transform into interactions in the future!

  79. lborsato

    I used to have all of my notifications posted via Growl in the upper right hand corner of my mac, from where I could go to the individual items. It got so tedious and disturbing that I disabled it.It seems that you’re looking for that universal inbox with notification, which I posit would be useless without the ability to filter out stuff I don’t want to see. Even then, on the small phone screen, I believe it would be obtrusive.But great for us ADD sufferers. ๐Ÿ™‚

  80. nemrut

    Fred, when you tweet a Foursquare check-in is that like a double-tweet or a double check-in? I dont get the value of why Twitter followers would want to know where you’re having dinner..

    1. fredwilson

      here is a good post about that…

  81. Matt A. Myers

    Top point is why I didn’t understand why people were talking about spam … I guess that just doesn’t fit into my schema ……… a good thing I would say. ๐Ÿ™‚

  82. fredwilson

    maybe i do know what i am talking about but don’t know everything and write blog posts to learn more. thank you