Microsoft's customer surveys found that people hate browser notifications, except when they want them. So it's opting for "quiet notification requests", which is not unlike the way Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have also tamed the annoying alerts.
Microsoft's move on quiet notification requests arrived in Chromium-based Edge version 84, released this week. It's enabled by default but users can turn it off in edge://settings/content/notifications.
Instead of seeing the full notification request, it can now be hidden behind a bell icon in the address bar.
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"With quiet requests enabled, site notification requests made via the Notifications or Push APIs will appear as a bell labeled "Notifications blocked" in the address bar, as opposed to the typical full flyout prompt," explain members of the Microsoft Edge team.
Microsoft says its approach is informed by users who generally don't see the value of notifications from a site but may also depend on them for meeting alerts from a calendar web app or updates from media subscriptions they like.
Placing notifications behind the bell icon allows the user to click "notifications blocked" to view and accept the request for that specific site.
"We've opted to turn on this setting by default for users in Microsoft Edge 84 due to high volumes of user feedback around unwanted notification subscriptions; we hope quiet notification requests will help reduce unintentional subscriptions," Microsoft says.
In reality, Microsoft's approach to notification spam is little different to Google's. It began blocking full notifications in Chrome 80 this February, instead hiding them behind a bell icon in the address bar. Mozilla did the exactly same in Firefox 72 in 2019.
Apple Safari doesn't block notification requests by default, but users can go to Safari Preferences > Websites > Notifications and then deselect "Allow websites to ask for permission to send notifications". This prevents Safari from displaying the requests.
But Microsoft is working on a different approach too by "turning on the full flyout prompt when data suggests users find a given site's notification request valuable."
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Microsoft hasn't explained how it would determine this or when it will roll the feature out, but says users would be able to keep quiet notification requests if they prefer that.
Microsoft is also considering how browser notifications play out through the Windows Action Center. Its customer surveys found people were being pestered by "high priority" Toast notifications with instructions that require user interaction in order to go away.
"Starting with Microsoft Edge 85, these notifications will now auto-dismiss in Windows Action Center after 25 seconds. Stay tuned to our upcoming blog for more details on this and other improvements," says the Microsoft Edge team.