Web notifications on iOS
I’ve mentioned before that I don’t enable notifications on my phone. Text messages are the only exception. I don’t want to get notified if a new email arrives (I avoid email on my phone completely) and I certainly don’t want some social media app telling me somebody liked or faved something.
But the number one feature I’d like to see in Safari on iOS is web notifications.
It’s not for me personally, see. It’s because it’s the number one reason why people are choosing not to go all in progressive web apps.
Safari on iOS is the last holdout. But that equates to enough marketshare that many companies feel they can’t treat notifications as a progressive enhancement. While I may not agree with that decision myself, I get it.
When I’m evangelising the benefits of building on the open web instead of making separate iOS and Android apps, I inevitably get asked about notifications. As long as mobile Safari doesn’t support them—even though desktop Safari does—I’m somewhat stumped. There’s no polyfill for this feature other than building an entire native app, which is a bit extreme as polyfills go.
And of course, unlike on your Mac, you don’t have the option of using a different browser on your iPhone. As long as mobile Safari doesn’t support web notifications, nothing on iOS can support web notifications.
I’ve got progressive web apps on the home screen of my phone that match their native equivalents feature-for-feature. Twitter. Instagram. They’re really good. In some ways they’re superior to the native apps; the Twitter website is much calmer, and the Instagram website has no advertising. But if I wanted to get notifications from any of those sites, I’d have to keep the native apps installed just for that one feature.
So in the spirit of complaining about web browsers in a productive way, I just want to throw this plea out there: Apple, please support web notifications in mobile Safari!
The good news is that web notifications on iOS might be on their way. Huzzah!
Alas, we’re reliant on Maximiliano’s detective work to even get a glimpse of a future feature like this. Apple has no public roadmap for Safari. There’s this status page on the Webkit blog but it’s incomplete—web notifications don’t appear at all. In any case, WebKit and Safari aren’t the same thing. The only way of knowing if a feature might be implemented in Safari is if it shows up in Safari Technology Preview, at which point it’s already pretty far along.
So while my number one feature request for mobile Safari is web notifications, a close second would be a public roadmap.
It only seems fair. If Apple devrels are asking us developers what features we’d like to see implemented—as they should!—then shouldn’t those same developers also be treated with enough respect to share a roadmap with them? There’s not much point in us asking for features if, unbeknownst to us, that feature is already being worked on.
But, like I said, my number one request remains: web notifications on iOS …please!