Still living in a Notification hell

It doesn’t matter what app it is — they are all trying to get me to turn on notifications, again and again, so that I can come back to their service. Facebook and Instagram are the most aggressive, but not the only ones who are overtly aggressive. Outlook on iPad thinks I need notifications. I don’t.  

For some odd reason “apps” think that every “like,” “message” or “comment” is of life-changing importance and thus needs to be viewed instantly. I mean, if I wanted notifications, I would have turned them on. Like I do for iMessage and Telegram. Those are important and have a time-value attached to them. When there isn’t value, I don’t turn them on. And that is why I find persistent nudging to turn on dumb notifications annoying.

I have long said that notifications are the atomic unit of interactions on mobile and are becoming vital in a world of fractionalized attention. I wrote about a future where the notifications would become a great way to access applications and create a new kind of user experience.

…notifications have been a blunt instrument for apps to try to get our attention. Every time you install a new app on your phone, you get a pop-up message that asks if you want to allow it to send you notifications. If you say yes, they arrive with the same intensity as emails, draining precious battery life, making your phone more annoying than savvy, and all you could do with a notification anyway was tap it to launch the app.

With time, notifications will only get smarter, and the companies that best understand this new way of communicating with its users will bring us just the right amount of information at the right time. Imagine Uber or taking cues from your calendar and your current location to recommend that you order a car now in order to arrive at your next meeting on time.

That was three years ago.  And I can’t believe that in 2017 and the notifications have stayed dumb, and are still be used as away to goose daily active user numbers. And these are from companies that paint a future controlled and shaped by artificial intelligence. It seems for now, even for simplest of tasks it is  more like asinine intelligence. 

July 14, 2017. San Francisco

A letter from Om

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