Do Firefox Users Want Push Notifications?

by Ostatic Staff - Feb. 03, 2012

As we've reported, Mozilla has been steadily working on automatic update methodologies for Firefox, which would seamlessly deliver new versions of the browser to existing users, as occurs with many other browsers. Some users are not so happy about that scheme, as Mozilla's rapid release cycle for its browser has brought with it occasional hiccups in brand new versions of Firefox. Now, the company is working on a push notification system for Firefox, which would let sites around the web push messaging to users even when the sites aren't loaded in the browser. The effort has its merits, but will probably raise some questions as well.

Mozilla developer Jeff Balogh noted in a blog post:

"Push notifications are a way for websites to send small messages to users when the user is not on the site. iOS and Android devices already support their own push notification services, but we want to make notifications available to the whole web. We’re making prototypes and designing the API right now and want to share our progress."

The push notifications would also go out to all instances of Firefox on various devices that any individual user might have. There are technical specifications for the system now, but it is still in its early stages.

For keeping abreast of news from favorite sites around the web, push notifications can be a great convenience. The concept is not new, though, and push notifications have drawn criticism in the past. For example, in the rise of the commercial web in the 1990s, Pointcast was a company that based its whole business model around push notifications and a central screensaver that users were to run. While initially heralded, the notifications were viewed as annoying by many users, and Pointcast faded. 

To be fair, Mozilla is not working on a Pointcast clone. One of Pointcast's major problems was simply that computers didn't have enough bandwidth at the time to deal with large amounts of data streaming on a push basis at all times. Now, that kind of issue is a non-issue.

It will be interesting to see how Mozilla develops the push notification concept, and what kinds of opt-in and opt-out choices Firefox users will have as the project progresses.