push notification

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A push notification (AKA client notification) is a notification that shows up on one or more of your client devices without explicitly requesting it; on the IndieWeb, push notifications originate from your personal site and are delivered to your personal devices using one or more services.

For the problem of being overwhelmed with push notifications, see:


Push notifications can be useful for notifications that have a timely aspect to them, such as alarms, countdown timers, phone calls, direct messages, events about to start, or changes to RSVPs. You should implement push notifications for your site so you don't have to poll your notifications page for such timely items.

  • 2015-04-06 Jeremy Keith 100 words 015

    The only time my phone is allowed to ask for my attention is for phone calls, SMS, or FaceTime (all rare occurrences). I initiate every other interaction—Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, the web. My phone is a tool that I control, not the other way around.

    Emphasis added.

How to

No replicable indieweb solutions to Push Notifications yet. See #Projects below for work in progress and #Brainstorming for areas to explore.

How to turn off

How and why to turn off

How to design better

2016-03-25 Designing smart notifications

  • 2015-12-09 also on Intercom's blog: It’s time for notifications to get smart

    My phone buzzed. I was somewhere in Iceland. More than ten miles from my car and any other human being. Holding a phone with a dying battery. I turned it on to check Google Maps.

    “Spotify added 2 tracks to the playlist Afternoon Acoustic”. Perfect timing. A ping from Periscope: “@kayvon wants you to watch …”, two new emails in Mailbox, a new Twitter follower, a @channel ping on Slack. Nine notifications in total. None vaguely important when I was stuck in the wilderness with 2% battery, a volatile internet connection and a real need to load that freaking map.

    Despite all of the advances of the past 20 years, notifications are still stuck in 1999.

Techniques (from the blog post)

  • Smart timing — what is the best timing for a ping
  • Smart location — notify you about tasks when you are at the location best suited to getting it done
  • Smart grouping — a gradual grouping
  • Smart reactions — based on how a user interacts with content, better wording and structure choices
  • Smart targeting — focus on the right user and turn down the noise for everyone else

IndieWeb Examples

Aaron Parecki

Aaron Parecki's site aaronparecki.com receives webmentions and then sends them to his own IRC channel, which then sends a push notification to his phone when his IRC status is "AFK" status. The notification sends just the two URLs (source, target), and the type of webmention, e.g. reply, like, etc. mention-app (see Projects below) is his eventual goal.

Marty McGuire

Marty McGuire's site martymcgui.re receives webmentions at webmention.io, which is configured to send a notification to a webhook running on his site. That hook uses Pushbullet to send a push notification to his phone and other devices.

Jamie Tanna

  Jamie Tanna converts webmention interactions to push notifications, previously using Pushbullet, but now using Pushover.

Jamie has copied aaronpk's idea of the Okta Factors API for push notifications for IndieAuth logins https://www.jvt.me/posts/2020/11/11/okta-factors-api-passwordless/

Jamie also plans to use a `notify` scope to allow clients to notify him, using a specific notification service (yet to be written).

Past Examples

Ben Roberts

Ben Roberts's site used Google Cloud Messaging service to send notifications to his phone and desktop. This uses the new Push API still being implemented in browsers. The notification simply links to ben.thatmustbe.me/activity but more recent versions would allow for pushing information to the notifier as well. While mobile works, it seems to forget itself after a time (restart of phone?).

Software Examples


Out of the box Known supports browser push notifications (on Chrome, and possibly(?) others) for interactions with posted content (likes and comments).

Service Examples

WordPress com

  • On 8/10/16 WordPress.com began using push notifications in Chrome & Firefox to notify blog users of likes and comment interactions on their sites. They indicated: "Browser notifications give you a real-time sense of your readers’ reactions, allowing you to stay more engaged with your audience."


Platform Examples

Examples of notification user interface presentation from platforms (e.g. operating systems)


Note clustering is limited to grouping and showing a count, actual text of notifications is not intelligently collapsed at all, e.g. notification text repeats the account that "Favourited":




This iOS 7 "recent items" notifications example shows 2-3 different kinds of notifications from two apps, a favorite, several likes, and a reply.

(newer screenshots needed)


Growl was a Mac OS X-based notification service. It has mostly been supplanted by Notification Center, which has been built into OS X since Mountain Lion's release in 2012.

(screenshots needed)

Apple criticisms

Twitter iOS app

Twitter iOS App:

Twitter 58m ago
@fraying favorited:
text first design is a form of
universal design: listenable, more
accessible. also a path to progre...

Instagram iOS app

Instagram iOS App:

Instagram 8m ago
cristyle__ liked your photo.


lucianteo said: "You're burping

Analysis of design differences

Note the differences:

  • "@username" vs. "username"
  • "favorited:" vs. "liked" (no colon) vs. "said:"
  • (linebreak) (unquoted 99 chars of tweet ...) vs. "your photo." vs. (inline quoted reply)

Some presentations of some notifications like these "recent items" begin to look like "cards".


Mention app

Main article: mention-app
  • Aaron Parecki brainstormed an iOS app (for now called just mention-app) to send him push notifications from an h-feed. Thus, if a server publishes received webmentions into an h-feed page, the app will get those (hopefully via PuSH, last resort via polling), and propagate them to the user's iOS device.


For notifications from an indieweb site to a web browser on a device, you may be able to use one or more of the following.

If you are actually using one of these on or with their personal site, add yourself to the #IndieWeb_Examples section above explaining how & why (what problem did it solve for you), and if you like, write-up a more general "#How_to" subsection for solving that problem using that technology or tool.

If any of these are obsolete or no longer work, please move them to a "Past Efforts" section or something like that so folks know to avoid them.


Somewhat in order from initial harms to subsequent harms, push notifications have been well documented to cause:

  • distraction
  • stress
  • anxiety & fear
  • contributes to addiction
  • fatigue


When attempting to focus attention on specific projects or goals, being interrupted with unrelated notifications can be very distracting.

Every notification system needs facilities to get specific notifications to be quiet, temporarily or permanently. The lack of said modes may reflect a software vendor's desire for you to engage more with (be distracted by) their service rather than the tasks you want to complete. Such notifications are disrespecting your time and resources.

  • 2018-02-27 New York Times: How Tiny Red Dots Took Over Your Life

    When platforms or services sense their users are disengaged, whether from social activities, work or merely a continued contribution to corporate profitability, dots are deployed: outside, inside, wherever they might be seen. I’ve met dots that existed only to inform me of the existence of other dots, new dots, dots with almost no meaning at all; a dot on my Instagram app led me to another dot within it, which informed me that something had happened on Facebook: Someone I barely know had posted for the first time in a while.

Nervous system stress

Push notifications stress users's nervous systems.

  • 2019-06-26 WIRED: A Brief History of Smartphone Notifications

    …in the 1990s and early 2000s, notifications like pulsing BlackBerry LEDs and “You’ve got mail!” were shoved into the forefront of our collective consciousness. Eventually, those became the icons, banners, and badges that litter our smartphones

    Rosen’s research has consistently shown that notifications stress us out—and that constant notifications, beeps, buzzes, and vibrations from our smartphones and computers all contribute to ongoing chemical stress.

Commentary on Hacker News and it’s decision not to support real time notifications:

Push notifications seem to jack up the nervous system in a way that's good for engagement but not necessarily for users

Anxiety and fear

mobile push notifications can cause anxiety and fear:

  • 2011-08-26 Blackberry Red Light of Doom

    Basically, whenever I see the red light flash on my Blackberry, I do panic a little bit inside and I dont know why! I get this strange gut feeling. It's not like my phone has turned evil and is trying to take over the world, it is simply telling me that I have a text, email, BBM, facebook notification....(could be anything really, Blackberries really can do everything)

    Emphasis and Wikilinks added.

Contributes to addiction

2017-10-12 BBC: This is why you're addicted to your phone

“Do you feel at all stressed when your phone is out of reach and it buzzes?”

Um. Yes. The irresistible curiosity, the little surge of anxiety, which grows the longer I leave my notification unchecked – these are feelings I know well.

Broadly speaking, tech design seeks to take advantage of our brains' reward system, where dopamine activation leads to feelings of satisfaction and pleasure.

Our brains are programmed to seek more of whatever gives us this pleasure - so much so that we crave it when we don’t have it. The same system that makes us crave drugs or certain foods can also make us crave particular apps, games, sites and devices.


Main article: notification fatigue


  • 2017-10-07 Jeremy Keith: Notifications

    I’m always shocked when I’m out and about with someone who has their phone set up to notify them of any activity—a mention on Twitter, a comment on Instagram, or worst of all, an email. The thought of receiving a notification upon receipt of an email gives me the shivers. Allowing those kinds of notifications would feel like putting shackles on my time and attention. Instead, I think I’m applying an old-school RSS mindset to app usage: pull rather than push.


  • 2017-04-10 The Notification Machine

    Hello, Black Mirror-ish version of yourself. Welcome to your new job!

    You’ve obviously found your workstation. Your job is to sit here and wait for a badge or notification to appear. When it does, you’ll hear a beep or a ding, letting you know that it’s time to get to work. Quickly type whatever message, accept whatever invite, or install whatever update that is required to make the badge or notification disappear. That’s it.

See Also