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Last update: April 2020

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Facebook and Google Hand Over More Control Over Notifications to Users

On April 9, Facebook launched their new quiet mode for push notifications, in part of a news post update on COVID-19. They explained it as being part of a push to set boundaries for users in their Facebook usage habits during lockdown. However, this is part of a wider trend of technology giants, such as Facebook and Google, giving the user more control over when and how they receive push notifications. What is driving this new trend? And how could operating systems like iOS and Android respond?

Facebook Notifications Quiet Mode

In their update post, Facebook noted that most of us are working from home. As such, we are trying to get used to new habits and routines, in what may be an environment with a lot of distractions. Facebook, in an attempt to help users adjust to new lifestyles and focus more, came up with a solution:

“We added Quiet Mode, which mutes most push notifications, and if you try to open .Facebook while in Quiet Mode, you’ll be reminded that you set this time aside to limit your time in the app.”

It’s interesting to see Facebook admit that their platform is detrimental to its users productivity, and to launch a product whose purpose is to curb Facebook use. If used properly, a user working from home could block out their eight-hour workday for Quiet Mode. They would then be able to work through the day without being pinged, and would be prompted if they unconsciously open the Facebook app.

Facebook Gives Users Access to Their Data

Interestingly, users can activate Quiet Mode in a new area of Facebook. This section also gives users access to data charts. These charts show how much time they spend on Facebook, what time of day they’re most active on it, and more. Users can view week-by-week trends and charts displaying how many times they visit. Users can also enable a weekly report that sums up how well you manage your time. It will provide an easy link to an Activity Log of all your activity on Facebook – every like, comment, and post – as well as other Settings features.

While Facebook introduced these features in 2018, it’s only recent that they have become so easily accessible and intuitive. This data still belongs to Facebook. However, it may be a push to be more transparent and accommodating with letting users peruse.

It’s more likely, however, that Facebook is trying to place itself at the forefront of the “digital wellbeing” trend. Indeed, its emphasis on Quiet Mode for notifications may be an attempt to pre-empt Apple’s own digital wellbeing features for limiting push notification disruptions. iOS 12’s answer to invasive notifications was to give users the ability to turn off notifications from the push notification itself. Understandably, Facebook seems anxious to offer users a less offensive variety of notification, rather than let this happen.

Android Digital Wellbeing

Google has also jumped on the wellbeing train, with Android Digital Wellbeing. It similarly includes a do not disturb mode, allowing you to pause and set time limits on distracting apps. Crucially, Android also offers users tools for managing and customizing the push notifications they receive. This includes different methods on how to clear notifications, individually or en masse.

It also offers a Snooze feature, which a user can go into settings to enable. Then, if a user receives a notification they want to engage with, they can swipe to snooze it. Then, they can select a later time to receive that notification.

Android also offers more customization options for the way users interact with notifications. In the Settings section, users can turn on or off notifications for various apps. They can also view an archive of recently sent notifications, categorized by app. Notifications sent over the last 7 days will be stored. Users can also customize notification settings on an app by app basis, such as whether it comes silently or with an alert.

It also gives users control over how notifications appear on their lockscreen:

  1. Don’t show any notifications
  2. Show all notifications
  3. Show important notifications only
  4. Hide sensitive content from notifications on your lockscreen

What Does This Mean for the Future of Push Notifications?

Push notification fatigue is a real problem, and abuse by unscrupulous marketers has resulted in the recent push to return control to the users. In these watershed times, with mobile technology and mobile games in particular becoming a failsafe measure for keeping people entertained and connected, it’s likely mobile devices will come out the other side even more important to society than before.

Push notifications are already the primary and most immediate way brands have of connecting with their users. This will only be more apparent in future months. And with different platforms – operating systems such as iOS and Android versus the apps themselves – trying to one-up each other in how users receive push notifications, we will likely be looking at a careful balancing act.

Most likely, platforms will continue to update their push notification rules to be as lenient as possible in their own favor – as when Apple decreed that apps can now send push notification ads – while giving users the option to tailor notification settings to their own preferences. That way, they can work in accordance with the new trend toward minimizing digital distractions. All this while hoping that enough users just stick with their default notification settings.

Either way, your best bet for reaching the widest number of users and getting the most engagement is simply to send them quality, highly personalized push notifications. OpenBack puts the user first every time with 40+ data triggers that can help you pinpoint the right moment to send your targeted push notifications. Get in touch with one of our experts to learn more!

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