MOZILLA'S ONGOING mission to make the internet a little less rubbish has a new arrow in its quiver of whimsy.
This time it has its sights set on push notifications, those messages you see pop up asking you if you want to have even more pop-ups for that site.
Sure, they're useful, but if you have no interest, it's actually quite difficult to get them to stop repeatedly being offered up each time you visit the site. Additionally, once you've subscribed, it's not always instinctive to work out how to turn them off again.
Now, Mozilla is fighting back with a series of experimental techniques in regulating the practice from misuse. The team has been exploring the phenomenon and drawn some icky conclusions:
"…the notifications prompt is by far the most frequently shown permission prompt, with about 18 million prompts shown on Firefox Beta in the month from Dec 25 2018 to Jan 24 2019. Not even 3 per cent of these prompts got accepted by users. Most prompts are dismissed, while almost 19 per cent of prompts caused users to leave the site immediately after being confronted with them. This is in stark contrast to the camera/microphone prompt, which has an acceptance rate of about 85 per cent!"
The research concludes that there are notification prompts that don't actually enhance the user experience or explain themselves properly. Others are so keen to get your attention that they ask you to opt in before you've had a chance to see the content you visited for in the first place, making you more likely to ignore them or surf away.
There are two experiments on the table. The first involves only showing permission prompts if the user interacts with the site, via a keystroke of a mouse click. This is currently active in nightly builds of Firefox 68, and will remain so throughout April. It won't affect Beta or Stable builds.
For the first two weeks, it will work as described. In the second two weeks, it will generate an animated icon alerting the user that there is an offer, which can then be clicked on.
The second experiment is subject to the current Firefox 67 and involves collecting telemetry data about the circumstances in which people interact with permission prompts. It will look at things like the length of visit to a site, how often the user has rejected offers in the past. This will then be used to formulate a better long term policy.
Mozilla notes that this second experiment breaks its own rules on data collection, and assures that it will be a short-term experiment with a small subset of users.
Ultimately, Mozilla hopes that it will make life better both for users and make the offer of push notifications more effective for developers. Amen to that. μ
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