Another Tweetstorm Rant

I got fed up yesterday with seeing this on my phone all the time

facebook notification

That red notification next to the Facebook app is basically permanent because it is about messages that I need to download FB messenger to receive and clear the notification. I love notifications, they are the primary way I navigate my phone, and I am just a little bit OCD about clearing them. But I don’t use FB messenger. I use iMessage with my family, Kik with USV folks and a few others, and SMS via iMessage for the rest. So I’ve avoided downloading FB Messenger because I don’t need yet another messenger on my phone.

Yesterday afternoon I ran out of patience after seeing a new notification, clicking on it, only to find it was yet again a prompt to download FB Messenger. I decided to rant a little bit on Twitter and fired off the following tweetstorm:

ts #1TS #2TS #3

I am a big fan of the “constellation” approach to mobile apps. Google does it well. Dropbox does it well. Facebook does it well. I think its a trend that will continue because less is more in the mobile app user experience and app developers and the mobile operating systems are making it easier to seamlessly move from app to app, like what happens on the web already.

But there is a bridge too far and I think using mobile notifications to force someone to download an app they really don’t want, just to clear the damn notification, is exactly that.

I’m hoping users and developers reject this approach. I’m afraid they won’t because it has worked so well for Facebook.


Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    This was definitely a growth hack driven thing, because if you pause downloading Messenger after you start it, then return to Facebook, the old messaging interface will return. Facebook won’t pester you again.I don’t use FB Messenger as a separate App. I use it inside Facebook’s mobile App.

    1. JimHirshfield

      Pro tip that ^^

      1. chiara

        scusate ma io non capisco una mazza di quello che avete scritto

    2. Guy Lepage

      Proving that only in rare instances should apps break out into constellations.

    3. sjollivier

      Thanks for that. I’m not against the idea of constellations, but I always thought that it was narrow-minded to take it out of the core FB app, thus forcing another app download. Did that really help users of the FB app? Should product teams bow to the ideology of app constellations over just making it easy to keep up with and engage your FB network?

      1. William Mougayar

        I think Facebook got confused over Messenger being a) a service to FB user vs. b) a standalone Messaging app that can compete with the likes of Snapchat, Kik, WhatsApp, etc.

  2. Guest


  3. Sebastien Latapie

    Incredibly frustrating experience. I share the OCD notification syndrome and deleted google’s Inbox from my phone as I simply couldn’t understand how to get rid of three notifications. Infuriating.As for developers rejecting this approach, I doubt it. It worked great for me – I now use Facebook Messenger more than Paper or the FB app.

  4. panterosa,

    The ever-pinging phone is the ironic crisis of virtual FOMO distraction which wrecks my IRL “now”, so I can’t be present. It needs to be killed. We are raising a generation of kids who have the attention span of teaspoons.

    1. William Mougayar

      Average person touches their smartphone 150 times per day. That’s every 6 mins when they aren’t sleeping. That’s insane!

      1. awaldstein

        Yup insane and as long as behaviors are addictive it ain’t stopping.Been talking to people about how to make our phones the enhancers of our concentration not the other way around.Is this an app or just more yoga?Actually an interesting question.

        1. William Mougayar

          There’s an App for that….Headspace. it helps you meditate daily.

          1. awaldstein

            Perfect an app to insure that I have a centered frame of mind from the onslaught of app notifications.This is like overeating junk food to take control of your body šŸ˜‰

          2. William Mougayar

            Yes, we need more Apps that have nothing to do with information or productivity, rather ones to do with plain well-being.

          3. awaldstein

            I agree but I don’t really have a sense of what that means–yet.In some ways the apps that do the most for life are not apps they are simply gateways to making life easier.For example–Instacart is a really good app both on the consumer and the messenger side but its not really an app–its using mobile as a tool to solving a huge pain point for urban life.Managed outsourcing that wires together people to solve core and perishable distribution is sucking me in lately.

          4. Joe Cardillo

            That’s a good point, one of the things that Jess and I talk about regularly is how it doesn’t make sense to have a new app every single time you want to solve a problem with someone or try a new idea. Plus, I’d argue that the vast majority of people don’t innately think about the world in terms of apps, they’re just trained to by technology.

          5. awaldstein

            A good topic.I find that I support friends apps as an act of interest and support. I use them and keep them on the phone when they become part of functional life.I have a screen full of friends and clients app that it is work to me to use, respond help find their pulse.A few screens of stuff that is essential to life, like socks–Uber, Twitter, Instagram.FB, Seamless, some browser, mail, compass, calculator and Google maps.Things on my phone need to become true needs to survive.I intentionally don’t collect them.

          6. Drew Meyers

            Yup…so many unused apps sitting on my phone. There are only so many actual pain points for entrepreneurs to solve.

          7. Donna Brewington White

            Imagine that.

      2. pointsnfigures

        Studies from MIT neuroscience have shown that people get a dopamine head rush every time they check and interact on their phone. Addicting. Like crack

        1. William Mougayar

          Yup. Crackberry was the first such crack šŸ™‚

          1. Emily Merkle

            I helped launch that cracxk babay. Just call me the Blackberry Cartel Queen. Austin 1999.

    2. laurie kalmanson

      recently, in internet addiction, which i read on the internet (actually read it in print, but found the url for you)…

  5. Jess Bachman

    Funny our relationship with notifications. All these red circles with numbers. They are just a stress inducer for me and clearing them all feels like I’m playing a protracted game of bejeweled. I’ve turned them all off.It’s empowering and puts me back in control of my experience, vs, acting like a rat when another pellet is dropped into my cage.

    1. Tyler

      I immediately felt a sense of relief when I turned off notifications.

  6. JimHirshfield

    How would your life change if you didn’t have the the FB app installed?

    1. Joe Cardillo

      That’s a really interesting question…be curious to hear your answer too. I don’t use FB messenger at all, I’ve thought out push v. pull in my life pretty carefully and the cons vastly outweigh the pros for me.

      1. JimHirshfield

        I haven’t had the FB app on my phone for a long time. Life better. I still get email alerts from FB concerning activity in my network. Those are usually of little interest.

        1. Joe Cardillo

          Yep. About the same here…and how I treat Instagram as well.

    2. Paul Sanwald

      Jim, I quit facebook a couple years ago after I asked myself this question, and couldn’t formulate a good answer. I haven’t missed facebook one iota; and for social communication I just use twitter, and instagram for sharing pictures with my family.Part of that is just me, I’m not the kind of person that can just be passive on a service and ignore it. I’m either very involved, or not at all. and facebook wasn’t adding anything to my life.I turn off all notifications on my phone except for snapchat, and my only friend on snapchat is my wife and we use it to share little moments when we’re traveling and apart.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Nice. See my reply to Joe below.App constellation model: you use FB, but it’s called Instagram.

        1. Paul Sanwald

          it’s a different account; though. I don’t think this is exactly the constellation model. I think of foursquare as the canonical example of that: swarm for checkins, foursquare for info. but, it’s the same account. Not true of instagram and facebook (I don’t have a facebook account).

  7. JimHirshfield

    BTW, what’s that background pic on your home screen?

    1. fredwilson

      it’s a work of art my daughter Jessica made. that’s her sitting in her apartment looking up at a drone flying along her ceiling. it’s made up from a few images she stitched together in photoshop

      1. JimHirshfield


  8. Marcus Detry

    I deleted the FB app from my mobile devices as soon as they forced messenger on me. What I discovered was that I do not miss Facebook, and instead spend more time on Twitter, reading far more interesting things. I wasn’t a big FB guy before, but now I almost never use it.

    1. Reeshabh Rawat

      Me to…since Im on watsapp… I hardly login to fb….I only use messenger and watsapp….specially watsapp… It is quicker,better and smarter

  9. ShanaC

    It will be used until it stops working. Basically, unless the behavior stops, why wouldn’t it be used?hence why things we think will go away (email marketing) haven’t. If anything, they’ve gotten more saturated. And people want them to get better. So probably the notifications will get better, and people will find better ways to deal.

    1. Joe Cardillo

      Agree they’ll either get better or they’ll disappear. Though, it’s painful that we have to wait til the worst before engineers who build ask “should we actually be doing this” and not automatically go with “hey look what we got a bunch of people to do!”

  10. Matt A. Myers

    They still have your data even if you delete Facebook, and clearly they prefer the adoption rate advantage compared to the smaller amount of users who will immediately mobilize away from FB. They’ve clearly been banking on that strategy that they can keep Facebook useful enough for users to keep them there or get them to come back.I’m still not sure it’s enough to keep a majority flood away from FB once there’s an adequate alternative in place. I believe FB’s abuses including Mark Zuckerberg’s initial abuse will inherently – due to leading and role model style – lead to FB becoming less popular and not needed as the status quo.It truly is these little decisions that dictate how people in general will feel about you / your company. Breaking trust, being a hypocrite, being dishonest or even not fully honest are all part of this.Generally money and opportunity is what will morally corrupt someone, and so they will make their decisions based on what they can get away with. The actors may not see themselves as corrupt, though they likely have an understanding of it, and worst get comfortable with that kind of thinking behaviour and pattern; unless someone is a sociopath and they don’t actually feel – most repress and then suppress which leads to all kinds of issues and sickness – in individual and society.So back to what’s acceptable at FB is directly correlated to the kind of behaviour the founder, assuming he’s in control, would find acceptable; his roots starting in being the developer hired to develop a network with the primary leading metric of requiring exclusive university email address, who instead developed FB, lying/leading them on; along with the hypocrisy of Mark Zuckerberg saying #JeSuisCharlie and then starting to censor and ban pictures of the Prophet Mohammad should speak volumes, and is a perfect mirror into moral corruptness and posing, being non-authentic and disingenuous; http://www.washingtonpost.c

  11. Richard

    Apps shouldn’t cry “wolf”.

  12. bsaitz

    could. not. agree. more.reminds me of the old tray problems with windows, where it go super cluttered just so apps could fight for mindshare/time

  13. Joe Cardillo

    As evidenced by recent Chris Messina tweet, notifications are quickly moving from signal to noise category:… (and the whole push vs. pull era that Chris Dixon talks about, the advantage of being first to leverage notifications, that’s pretty much over).

    1. Joe Cardillo

      Whoa. Sorry for huge preview. Anyone know how to disable in Disqus?

      1. JimHirshfield

        No can do. But users can “hide media” from the menu at upper left right of thread, under your username.

        1. Joe Cardillo

          Gotcha, thanks Jim

    2. William Mougayar

      the folders compound the noise for sure.

    3. Drew Meyers

      def noise

  14. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    An analogy to notification/app non-self-containment impedance is message / form-factor impedanceA tweetstorm is also a set of inherently non-self-contained messages which require you view other tweets for contextThe public nature of the tweet is thus coerced to expose what is essentially other form factor intent – A blog post is thus effectively an efficient tweetstorm!Consider if a tweet is *meant* to be short – like a notification then it is like a TL:DRA TL:DR is meant to be concise – You dont put a hyperlink in a TLDR to expand on contentCan you imagine if you had to download a pdf file one page at a time = message/form-factor impedanceSo @fredwilson:disqus – This is why I generally do not read tweetstorms – I dont like the way the developer (of content) is bending the constraints of the app- but it can be an effective marketing tool !

    1. fredwilson

      we can agree to disagree on this. that’s like saying writing ten posts is different than writing one post

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Happy with that – thought of a nice analogy of your app notifications thoughWhen as a kid you get a gift featuring “batteries not included”Yes it works to sell batteries, but it is definitely the crap service option

  15. LIAD

    This whole west coast thing isn’t working for me.You’re going to have to buy a warm jumper and move back east.

    1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      +1000 on that from Switzerland – Had to entertain myself during my afternoon coffee

    2. laurie kalmanson

      mixed feelings; it was a great way to start the day — now it’s a mid morning break

    3. fredwilson

      i just did a day trip to the bay area for a board meeting and visiting a couple companies. i’m going to be home for dinner. this is a game changer for me. going to a board meeting for a bay area company used to mean losing two days. now it means a day trip. big difference!

      1. awaldstein

        LAX to home on the West Side is really an easy jump as well. When at LAX you are basically home.

    4. Donna Brewington White

      Yeah I am going to have to give up pulling those all-nighters that allowed me to be among the first commenters.

    5. Sean Hull

      lol. priceless!

  16. jonathan hegranes

    one of the toughest adjustments for me as i went from android to ios was that damned red dot… the infamous badge icon.fortunately, you can turn that OFF for facebook, as i’ve done.though to add to your tweetstorm rant, the worst culprit is twitter. i don’t know why they don’t offer this, and i can’t believe apple let’s them have an app without badge icon control, but it’s made me move twitter off of my homescreen.

  17. Semil Shah

    Can you just delete badges for that particular app in settings?

    1. charles

      gems cheats 99999999foods cheats 99999999golds cheats 99999999

    2. arlene grace G.benedicto


  18. Supratim Dasgupta

    I deleted my Facebook account 3 yrs ago and didnt miss it even for a day.It was funny how much time I was spending on it.I moved to reading gigh quality books and my quality of life instantly went up.I will admit i am getting hooked to Quora these days.Roughly about 20mins a day

  19. Kyle Fox

    Facebook’s user-hostile approach to growth led me to delete the app, and is one reason I ultimately deactivated my account. I feel like Facebook tries very hard to strong-arm me into using Facebook in a way that benefits *them* first, with utility to me being a secondary concern.People who build products recognize this as somewhat exploitative and get turned off. However, I’m certain I’m an edge case and that the overwhelming majority of users are happy to either download Messenger or ignore the notification.

    1. MikeSchinkel

      “Facebook tries very hard to strong-arm me into using Facebook in a way that benefits *them* first, with utility to me being a secondary concern.”Definitely that.

  20. Salt Shaker

    FB had killer qtr but the street not rewarding. Too hell bent on MAU metrics vs. ARPU growth, which kicked butt. Likely doesn’t bode well for TWTR’s earnings either. Once the latter offers stronger video capabilities they’re gonna take a nice chunk out of You Tube, particularly with a more fav rev share.

  21. Lucky

    Great article. Gosh you must be charging your phone non stop with all the apps you have on your phone .

    1. fredwilson


      1. Lucky

        Let me know if you need a case to help you charge on the go from (side hustle) would be my honor to send one over šŸ™‚

  22. Murtaza Abedin

    Yes! This is incredibly frustrating for me (also OCD about clearing notifications, email, etc.). My phone has limited space and I hate the idea of being baited into this sort of thing. I resisted downloading FB Messenger for quite a while before eventually giving in. There was a period of about 1 month where I would download FB Messenger each time I received a notification, read the message and immediately delete the app afterward.

  23. Vijay

    Perhaps just turn notifications off for social apps – leave them on fetch mode vs push. Too much noise anyway, less distraction if you choose to update.

    1. Tyler

      I concur

  24. kev polonski

    And here I thought Twitter was supposed to be 140 characters or less!

    1. fredwilson

      the users have hacked twitter to do many things over the years

  25. Noah

    Fred I certainly agree. I think my brain has adjusted over time to process notifications differently from apps like Facebook, where you can’t necessarily clear them without taking the action the app wants even if you don’t want to, or other apps that I have just stopped using (and in reality should delete in that case, but feel like I MIGHT still want quickly accessible should a need arise).Still – a notification should be what it is called: something you’re notified of (and seeing why = clearing). Not something you’re mandated to do.

  26. Guy Lepage

    I am NOT a fan of app constellations.. As a UX/UI guy, I think it’s a lazy solution to an app. A lot of other people I know are abandoning these apps. Used to be BIG fan of Foursquare and now both their apps are off my phone. Over the past month, I’ve sat listening to at least four conversations with people passionately ranting about how much they hate app constellations. I personally think there needs to be a BIG reason for multiple apps.. Foursquare did not need to do it, FB did not need to break out the messenger.. But a purchase of another app such as Instagram or to create a completely new set of users on a radically different concept are great reasons for “constillating” apps.

  27. Steven Lowell

    “You have 18 updates to your phone waiting”Ummmm yeah…the same 18 worthless apps I deleted thank you!Thanks Fred. Glad to see you say something.

  28. Steven Lowell

    Curious…How many people “need” notifications vs. “completely over them”?I think some people in my family come to mind who have no idea what is necessary and may unwittingly download things out of “belief in necessity”.

    1. Joe Cardillo

      For me, all push notifications are off. If I like something enough I’ll log in to see what’s new (in which case carefully / thoughtfully generated notifications are nice to have).

  29. maxshelley

    This is slightly off-topic (feel free to delete if it’s too far off).The screenshots in the post are all separate images, but if you’d ever like to automatically make single image screenshots, there’s an app for that here: don’t work for them or anything, no disclosure to be made. I just thought people on this blog might find it useful.

    1. fredwilson

      ooooooh. i knew there was something like that out there but i didn’t have time to look for it. thanks so much for telling me about it

  30. pointsnfigures

    It’s coercive. I downloaded it and it’s yet another app. I am OCD about red numbers on my screen for some reason. I can’t say I love any message platform better than another. Just texting works for me but you have to know an exact number. Would be nice to see one app that blankets all platforms.

  31. kevando

    No browser on your home screen? Just download iOS chrome and use facebook through the web app. That way you can also use Facebook messages on your phone.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s not my home screen. that’s my second screen

      1. JamesHRH

        Fred, I think this post is over the top on a couple of ideas, but do you think the Android & iOS UIs are headed to a notification / messaging centric UI?

  32. Gudjon Mar Gudjonsson

    Hey, there is a space for one more app there ! šŸ˜‰

    1. fredwilson

      do you have a suggestion Gudjon?

      1. Gudjon Mar Gudjonsson

        Iā€™m too selfish as an entrepreneur to recommend anything else than our very own OZ app!! šŸ™‚

  33. Twain Twain

    Wondering if AppStore red box notifications about app updates annoy us like the FB Messenger notifications.Functionally, they involve the same action requirements from the user: download this app and the red notification box will clear and disappear.Yet the user experience feels so different.

  34. baba12

    Can ya imagine how it would be for Mr.Wilson being notified every time the Knicks lost a game… sweet holy moly.. I wonder how much of this design for notifications is driven by a need to increase places to put up ads within that platform whether it is FB or GOOG or TWTR. Do the shareholders have some say in that and if so do they take any responsibility for the way things have metastasized in this desire to have constellations… I thought it was all about keeping it simple…

    1. fredwilson

      we are winning more these days now that we showed a bunch of vets who didn’t want to hustle the door and brought in these hungry kids who didn’t even get drafted

      1. William Mougayar

        well, one thing LA and NY have in common is 2 NBA teams each. Clippers are playing well!

      2. pointsnfigures

        Never underestimate the Zen Master. Who wouldn’t love playing for Phil Jackson. Even though he isn’t coaching, his influence will be felt.

  35. pointsnfigures

    I use messenger, not particularly enthralled by it or hate for it. Straight texting works just fine for me, only problem is you have to know the direct number. My problem is that I am so OCD about the red numbers I HATE to have them on my phone. Something I need to get over. I turned off a lot of notifications for things. That way I don’t get bugged. I am distracted enough….I agree with your analysis of the “ecosystem” or whatever anyone wants to call it. I guess we will see more and more of that as companies try to capture your data and put you in their walled garden.

  36. Donna Brewington White

    It all goes back to “give me news I can use.”

    1. Drew Meyers

      most news is irrelevant/un-actionable

  37. Ciaran

    One of the many reasons I still prefer Android. I have a Nexus 5 and use it with the Aviate launcher (disclosure, I work for a Yahoo JV), and the only annoyances I get are the little ones in the top of the screen.No ugly red dots for me.As others have said, they used to stress me out.

  38. cavepainting

    Notifications have become annoying and spammy.1. iOS and Android need to provide deeper capabilities for developers to categorize notifications and for users to manage them more effectively2. May be we need the equivalent of a Google Inbox / Acompli / GlanceAt for notifications. A mediation layer that can score for relevance, filter unnecessary stuff and optimize for user’s past behavior.

  39. Pete Griffiths

    I just (finally) got the Nexus 6. Fabulous phone. And it is amazing how relatively small changes in form factor can have a huge user experience benefit. Looking at the image of your home page I see that each row has 4 icons. On the Nexus 6 I can get 5 per row. It’s great!

  40. falicon

    I use the old fb app too…when I see a notification icon and it’s a message, I just go to the Web version to read/clear it…not ideal but works and doesn’t require letting fb message take over my whole phone…

  41. vruz

    You know my opinion of Facebook Inc. ranks very low, and I rarely ever have anything nice to say about them.However, from an engineer’s PoV, Facebook’s Messenger is simply brilliant. (For Facebook, and for Facebook users)

  42. Tom Hart

    I’ve been very happy with keeping my Facebook account but deleting the app from my phone and only accessing via web/mobile web. Even making it harder for myself, I still check it too much. But am finding myself checking more and more for FB Trending than for my own news feed which is interesting…

  43. Ronin_Jim

    This. But for LinkedIn, which deploys notification spam in a way that makes it appear needy and pathetic. Really, do I need to be notified that people are looking at my profile? Isn’t that the point of LI?

  44. Prokofy

    I remember the first time I heard Scoble talk about these red balloons, these notifications, that were bothering him and making him want to click on them all the time. I had no idea what he meant. From the very beginning, these things just didn’t read for me. I’m not sure why. Somehow I just didn’t “see them”. They weren’t like Second Life notifications. They weren’t quite like Twitter notifications (which aren’t red)But then once he pointed them out, there they were. I didn’t feel I needed to click on them, but I felt they were a reproach. For example, the Yahoo email one would say things like “3,523” and the banking one would say “87” or something. So I just shut off all the notices that are on the screen in the red balloons. There’s another thing you can do, which is swipe down from the top, and then see all the notifications that way, when you are ready to really look at them.I’m just curious why you would find these notifications very useful such as to keep them on all the time.

  45. Susan Rubinsky

    I love FB Messenger too. I also love FB Pages Manager and the notifications in particular. This is because I manage social media communications for several clients. The notification is a quick way for me to know if I have to attend to something or not. I use Hootsuite to compile all the client accounts and social media interactions but only look there when I am doing a more comprehensive analysis or planning a new campaign. FB notifications has allowed me to stay on top of issues in real time.

  46. Joe Cardillo

    Looks quite manageable = ) and similar to mine

  47. fredwilson

    lovely woman you’ve got on your home screen

  48. Chimpwithcans

    No phone app on the homescreen?