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Web Browsers Are Silencing Annoying Notification Popups

Chrome and Firefox browser logos

“This website wants to show notifications!” It’s been an annoying part of the web landscape for years. A well-intentioned feature was abused by many websites to hassle users, and now browsers like Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome are cracking down.

Why Did Browser Make These So Annoying?

The old notification prompt in Google Chrome

Notification capabilities were just part of making the web a better application platform. Web apps should be able to send you notifications about new messages and emails—if you want them. And those notifications should arrive even if you have the web page closed. What’s wrong with options?

Well, web browsers presented these notification requests in a pretty annoying way. When you visit a website—even if it’s just once to read an article—it could pop up a message that’s difficult to ignore. More and more websites began adding notification requests. For example, a news website could push new articles to its subscribers via web browser notifications.

The problem isn’t the notification option itself. It’s how pushy the notification request is. Web browsers should have cracked down on these popups years ago.

Mozilla Firefox Cracked Down First

A quieter notification prompt in Firefox

Mozilla was the first browser developer to crack down on these annoying notifications. The change came in Firefox 72, released on January 7, 2020.

Now, rather than a large request message that pops up as soon as you visit a website, you’ll see a small speech bubble in the address bar to the left of the web page’s address. It will wiggle a bit as the web page loads.

You can still enable notifications for a website clicking the bubble and then clicking “Allow Notifications.” If you don’t want to see the bubble wiggle, you can click “Never Allow” instead—or head into Firefox’s options and disable notification requests entirely.

Either way, you won’t see pop-ups as soon as you open a web page. Mozilla says it “discovered during testing that about 99% of notification prompts go unaccepted, with 48% being actively denied by the user.”

Google Chrome 80 Is Silencing Annoying Prompts, Too

Notifications blocked by default in Chrome

Google is following suit in Google Chrome 80, which was released on February 4, 2020. This change won’t be enabled for everyone immediately, but Google says it plans to automatically enable it for people who deny notifications over and over again and on websites where very few people accept notifications.

To enable it manually, you can toggle the “Use quieter messaging” flag. To access this, plug chrome://flags/#quiet-notification-prompts  into Chrome’s address bar and press Enter.

The quieter notification request flag in Google Chrome 80

Once you’ve done that, you can head to Chrome’s notification settings—click menu > Settings > Advanced > Site Settings > Notifications and enable “Use quieter messaging (blocks notification prompts from interrupting you).”

Enabling Google Chrome's quieter messaging option for notifications in Settings.

When this feature is enabled in Chrome, you’ll see a bell-shaped notification icon at the right side of Chrome’s omnibox, also known as the address bar. Mouse over it and you’ll see the message “You usually block notifications. To let this site notify you, click here.”

As in Firefox, you can still enable notifications if you like. Websites just can’t repeatedly bother you with notification popups that interrupt your web browsing.

What About Apple Safari and Microsoft Edge?

The new version of Microsoft Edge is now based on the Chromium code that powers Google Chrome. In other words, expect Microsoft Edge to limit web notifications in the same way Google Chrome does.

Apple hasn’t yet announced any plans to silence these annoying notification requests in the Safari web browser yet. However, you can still disable notification prompts in Safari’s settings. We wouldn’t be surprised if Apple followed suit and made these notification requests less annoying, too.

Update: Apple did make a change to Safari’s notification prompts back in 2019, although it didn’t make them “quieter” in the same way Firefox and Chrome did. Websites can’t show push notification requests when a web page loads. They have to ask for notification permissions in response to a user interaction on the page.

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