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Introducing adaptive notification requests in Microsoft Edge

Written By published February 16, 2021

Users tell us that they find notification requests bothersome and distracting – except when they don’t. We want sites to engage with users without annoying them, but we also don’t want our users to miss reminders that may be important for them.  With new changes that we’re rolling out, we are hoping to solve both problems at the same time.

What we learned from quiet notification requests

Our users told us that they were dissatisfied with how often they saw notification requests distract them from their current task. To help resolve this issue, we shipped quiet notification requests in Microsoft Edge 84, which reduced the prominence of notification requests while keeping them at a noticeable location in the UI. This experience was enabled by default on all sites to address user feedback about unwanted notifications.

quiet notifications icon in Microsoft Edge

After we rolled out quiet requests, we found that user reports about undesired notifications were largely mitigated. We’re excited to see our customers are happier!

At the same time, we saw that fewer users were accepting notifications on popular websites with previously high acceptance rates, and we started to hear feedback from users that they couldn’t find how to enable notifications for their favorite sites, or didn’t understand why they no longer received notifications from their favorite sites.

Notifications can be a powerful tool to help users engage with sites that they want to remain connected with. We always want to be grounded in what’s best for our customers and these conflicting signals told us that we needed to find a better balance between the full prompt and quiet requests.

Balance the full prompt and quiet requests : the wisdom of the crowd

Some sites offer valuable notifications, and have a high rate of user acceptance when they ask permission for notifications. Other sites offer less valuable (or even spam) notifications, and have a much lower rate of user acceptance when they ask permission to send notifications. We want to maximize the value of notifications and minimize their annoyance by quieting notification requests in the latter case, without penalizing sites offering valuable notifications.

To build a good balance, we have developed a new approach we’re calling adaptive notification requests, and have started experimenting with it in Microsoft Edge 88. With this new approach, we provide either the full prompt or quiet requests based on the data accrued from actual user choices – we’re crowdsourcing!

We suggest site owners provide permission requests with consideration to the user’s context and timing, after users have engaged with sites. Sites that follow good practices and earn a high user acceptance rate will begin to show the full prompt without being “quieted.”

How it works

To achieve balance presenting the full prompt and quiet requests, we introduced a score system. Here’s an example of the full prompt to understand how we use each user choice when a full prompt is provided.

Site information panel in Microsoft Edge showing a request for a site to show notifications
Allow Click on “Allow” button
Block Click on “Block” button
Ignore Navigate away without interaction on the full prompt or close tab itself
Dismiss Close the full prompt by clicking on ‘x’

As our score system represents the level of annoyance of the full prompt, “Block” yields a higher score indicating a strong negative signal, “Ignore” and “Dismiss” influence the scores as a weak negative signal, and “Allow” yields the lowest score indicating a strong positive signal. Based on the collective score of users, we provide quiet requests to the websites whose scores are higher than the threshold.

Throughout our experiment, we’ll continue to fine tune the most effective score threshold that addresses user feedback about the balance between easily subscribing to the desired notifications and the annoyance of unwanted notification requests.

We will use updated data regularly so sites can provide the full prompt to their users when they get better acceptance rates from their users. This should be a strong motivator for sites to follow best practices and request notifications when they think users are most likely to accept. For sites providing quiet requests, we will provide random chance of providing the full prompt so we can continue to measure whether the site should provide the full prompt with improved user experience.

Configuring quiet notifications

With this feature rollout, the “Quiet notification requests” setting in the Microsoft Edge settings page (Settings → Cookies and site permissions → Notifications) is disabled by default.

Quiet notifications settings in Microsoft Edge

With the setting disabled, adaptive notification requests automatically presents the balanced experience: presenting either the full prompt or quiet requests. However, users can always opt into quiet notification requests by enabling this setting if you prefer the quiet requests. If you have used Microsoft Edge and have changed this setting manually at least once, the value will stay as you set. In that case, please disable the setting to get the adaptive notification requests behavior.

Additionally, when users explicitly block requests 3 consecutive times while navigating across different websites, we will enable quiet requests. Because taking an action to ignore or dismiss notifications implies a negative experience, we auto-block the notification for the website if the user dismisses or ignores the requests 3 or 4 consecutive times, respectively.

A better notification experience

Following positive results from our experiment in Canary, Dev, and Beta channels, we have rolled out this new experience to all users in Microsoft Edge 88 Stable. We are keen to continue to monitor the feedback and improve the experience as needed.

With this balanced approach, we want to see users be more satisfied with their notification experience on the web. Check out the best practices section in our previous blog to see how you can improve your notification acceptance rate. As sites follow best practices, we hope to see the overall user acceptance rates improve so that over time only known spammer sites will get quiet requests and sites can continue to benefit from user engagement through notifications.  We are excited to see what change this experiment is going to bring!

Other notification improvements

In addition to the notification request experience, we’re also improving notifications in general. Here are a few improvements we have shipped:

  • Enabled background push when the browser is not open: Beginning with Microsoft Edge 85, users can now receive push notifications even when Microsoft Edge is closed. With this change, users will never miss notifications from their favorite sites. This feature requires Windows 10 version 20H1 or above.
  • Addressed user feedback where Windows toasts would permanently remain on the screen: we found that many users were frustrated by “high priority” toast notifications set with the requireInteraction member, as these notifications never disappear without user interaction. Starting with Microsoft Edge 85, these notifications auto-dismiss in Windows Action Center after 25 seconds.
  • Improved Chromium’s integration with the Windows Action Center by fixing unresponsive notification click bugs. Starting with Microsoft Edge 85, we fixed three bugs where clicking on notifications in Action Center failed to trigger onclickevent handlers. We fixed this issue upstream, so both Chrome and Microsoft Edge 85 and above work correctly with the notifications dismissed to Windows Action Center.

Please share your feedback

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our approach to balance the full prompt and quiet requests.  If you run into any issues or have any feedback, use the in-app feedback button (or Alt+Shift+I). You can also reach out to us on Twitter.

– Jungkee Song, Program Manager, Microsoft Edge
– Daniel Soromou, Software Engineer, Microsoft Edge