Push notifications are one of the most under appreciated inventions of our time.

If you weren’t online during the 90’s, you probably missed the first wave of push notifications companies.  I can’t recall the name of the company that I first saw demonstrating push – it was one of those things where you signed up online and they sent you a CD in the mail with the install on it.  And then your home screen was modified to have a scrolling ticker tape on it that sent you push notifications for the categories you chose.

[Tweet “”How clever is that!” I remember thinking, completely in awe of the push messaging concept. “]

Unfortunately the company that devised this amazing software was so far ahead of its time that it couldn’t wait for time to catch up…  oh, yeah and that dot com bust thing, when all the funding dried up for a couple of years.  (Holy toledo, I really am an internet dinosaur!)

[RELATED: The $7 Digital Business Card (this is one of the best ways to get your toes wet with push notifications)]

I think that way back then we didn’t have quite enough computing power to really take advantage of push notifications.  Our computers might have been robust enough to manage it, but the connections that we relied on to push data were just not fast enough to make it efficient.  (I also remember having TV on a flip phone in like 2004 and that was a poor experience as well, lol)

How do push notifications work today?

The super simple answer is this: they send messages to phones (or computers or tablets) at the right time to let the owner know when something is happening that he or she might care about, including:

  • They are physically located near something of interest
  • Something notable has just occurred in the news cycle
  • They have achieved an objective or reached a goal
  • They requested a notification when a specific event occurred
  • Other personalized notifications can be set up for nearly any circumstance, event, or happening

Why do we want push notifications?

Push notifications that are sent to our mobile phones (especially the kind that can be pushed directly to the lock screen and not just to a message notification center) are the easiest and most effective way to get our immediate attention at the moment.

People don’t respond as well to any other means of transmission – SMS messages and lock screen notifications are more efficient than email marketing, online advertising, offline advertising, and even social media updates.  This is one of the reasons why every social media platform wants to send you push notifications each time they have a relevant update for your account.

This is also why they send out Amber Alerts, Silver Alerts and weather updates to your mobile phone lock screen and not to your email address  ;)

[Tweet “This is one of the reasons why every social media platform wants to send you push notifications…”]

My personal opinion is that push notifications are a good thing – as long as they aren’t used excessively.  I find that Twitter sends WAY, WAY, WAY too many notifications to my phone, especially in light of how often I actually use the service on either of my phones.   I allow Facebook to send me push, but not to text me, it’s absolutely crazy how their system doesn’t distinguish and will bombard you with messages twice over, if you think about it.

We use push notifications, obviously – the image above is from my phone right after our podcast had updated and it sent me the update notification.  But we use them more sparingly.  If you’re in a physical location with a geo-fencing or iBeacon trigger, then you’re going to see more messages (and you can turn off the messages for that particular pass directly in your Apple Wallet or Android wallet, no need to hunt down any kind of settings or anything like that – we like to keep it simple); otherwise you only get a notification when there’s an actual update to specific content.


In a nutshell, that’s how mobile push notifications work.