Google released Chrome 42 this week and it includes an exciting addition for developers, push notifications.
Thanks to support for the Push API, a proposed standard for push services, and the Notifications API, an API standard for displaying notifications to end users, developers will now have the ability to deliver notifications to Chrome users, even after they have closed the browser.
To ensure that the new functionality is not abused, Chrome requires that users opt in to receiving notifications — but they have the ability to opt out at any time. Once permission has been granted, developers can deliver notifications using a push service like Google Cloud Messaging or Amazon SNS.
Back to the Future, Ditching the Past
There is a wide range of use cases for push notifications. Websites can use them to inform users of new content, important events, and special deals. Obviously, given that users must consent to receiving notifications, developers will need to strike a balance. Too many notifications could become irritating, while too few may leave developers unable to capitalize on the opportunity push notifications create. This will require developers to implement push notification strategies thoughtfully and to experiment carefully. Over time, expect to see best practices emerge for push notification use in browsers.
Interestingly, Chrome 42’s new functionality harkens back to an earlier period on the internet when “push” was a big trend. In the 1990s, startups rode this trend and some, like PointCast, even saw their technologies integrated into Netscape and Internet Explorer. More than a decade later, thanks in large part to the explosion of mobile content delivery and messaging, Chrome 42 signals that push may be back in the browser, this time for good.
What probably aren’t sticking around in the browser: Java and Silverlight plugins. In Chrome 42, Google has disabled by default the aging Netscape Plugin API (NPAPI) that these plugins rely on. When Google announced that it would be phasing this out, it pointed to declining usage of the NPAPI and the ill effects of plugins, including browser crashes and security vulnerabilities.
While some browsers, including Safari and Firefox, still support NPAPI, the writing is on the wall. Java and Silverlight plugins are not the future of content delivery on the web and not surprisingly, content providers are moving away from them and adopting newer technologies that are more reliable and deliver better user experiences.