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Facebook Notify: What problem does it solve?

Facebook released its long-awaited Notify app. We’ve heard a lot about it, but little about what it actually would do. Many instantly thought it was a competitor and knockout punch to Twitter and its new Moments feature.

Turns out, Notify isn’t that at all. In fact, Notify has nothing to even do with Twitter, except that both operate to deliver information in real-time. But that’s not new or unique.

I can think of all those times I’ve heard Mark Zuckerberg say that he wants Facebook to be the Internet, that there should be no reason for anyone to go anywhere else. That really hits home with Notify.

scott-kleinberg-facebook-notify1On the surface, Notify is an app that seems like it’s trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Instead of getting your alerts from the app itself, get them via Facebook.

I can see the board meeting now.

Question: Why would the average person use our app to get alerts that they are already getting from somewhere else?

Answer: Because the average person might have 50 notifications set up separately through 50 separate apps that need to be administered separately. This way, everything is in one place.

That part I get. I still don’t think it’s a problem, because I have no problem managing my notifications now and I have a lot more than 50. But I see how for some people where this would be easier.

Testing it should be very interesting. When you first launch Notify, you are prompted to connect to your Facebook account. Then, you are asked to choose a minimum of 3 “stations,” which is what Facebook calls its sources for notifications. I chose 4: CNN breaking news, New York Times interesting read of the day, Quartz and the Weather Channel daily forecast.

Here’s my thinking:

CNN: I already have CNN alerts and they seem to work well. Now I need to know if Facebook will deliver the CNN alert at the same time as the CNN alert. In general, Facebook’s trending topics are terrible. Normally, something shows up under trending many hours or even days after it shows up on Twitter, so by the time I see it there it’s not actually breaking or trending. So if I’m going to get CNN alerts hours later than CNN delivers it, then it’s a fail and I’m going back to the old way. I might go back to the old way anyhow since I have no problem with the way the CNN app works. But I want to at least know if it’s an alternative solution.

scott-kleinberg-facebook-notify2New York Times: An interesting, editor’s pick intrigues me. I trust the editors at the New York Times, so if they recommend I read something I’m happy to read it. But here’s a problem I already found. Notify has a section where you can see the previous notifications that came through and although I haven’t yet received any, it shows the ones that were/would have been sent yesterday. There were 2 alerts from the Times, one an interesting-sounding read about a painting and a second one telling me to tune into their coverage of the GOP debate. That’s not an interesting read, so it shows me that it’s picking up any New York Times breaking news alert, which is not what I signed up for.

Quartz: I just like Quartz and I don’t get any notifications from them now, so I’m happy to do this is a general test of Notify.

The Weather Channel morning forecast: Says it will be delivered to me by 7 a.m. I’m just curious to see how the timing works. Will it make it in time? I check my weather app first thing in the morning and it’s usually not one from the Weather Channel, so I’ll give it a go.

It’s early, but perhaps this will work. The one thing I noticed about Notify right away is how familiar the icon is. As you can see from the accompanying art, it’s a lot like Apple’s remote app. In fact, it’s really, really close and without a closer look it’s easy to mistake the two. I don’t dislike the notify app’s icon, but Apple was definitely first there, despite it just being a simple blue circle with a white icon inside.

So the jury is still out. I haven’t yet received a notification, so it’s unfair of me to rate or judge Notify. However, I’ll come back and update soon once I know for sure.

One area where this has a huge amount of potential for me is on the Apple Watch. Setting up notifications there is painfully annoying, even with the Apple Watch’s mirror notifications from iPhone feature. If Facebook gives me a Notify app for Apple Watch where I can set up all the notifications in one place then I am all over that.

Have you played around with Notify? Notify me by leaving a comment or tweeting me.

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  1. I doubt the Notify app is going to be a big hit on the Apple Watch. I’ve been playing with it and it appears that most of the notifications link to a mobile webpage. Since the Apple Watch doesn’t have a native browser, the user will still have to open the Notify me app on their iPhone to read the entire notification which then defeats the purpose of having the notification sent to the watch.

    • Well, that’s really good to know. A mobile webpage? Really? Is that the best they could do? I can certainly see there being a group of people who want to manage everything in one place. It’s like any password app that does that. But in general, I would never change everything I have now just to use this. Thanks for the very helpful comment.