Notifications are the New Spam
It wasn’t too long ago that email was proclaimed dead. Collapsing under a massive burden of spam, the signal to noise ratio became so bad that people thought text messaging, IM, or other emerging forms of communication would replace email altogether.
Except this never happened. Google saved email. GMail’s spam filtering technology is essentially perfect. I get maybe one spam message every 3 months and no false positives. All the other cloud email services followed suit–email became usable again.
So usable, in fact, that email notifications have become a critical tool in user retention for games and apps. Around the time Facebook added the ability for app developers to email updates, every single web app, site, or game started using email notifications to keep users in the loop. Satisfying this demand, a new crop of startups emerged to guarantee delivery of email notifications.
Email notifications are now a worse problem than spam. My inbox is clogged with meaningless email notifications from websites I long forgot I signed up for. I unsubscribe every day, but more keep coming. Google needs to create a new kind of filter: the notification filter.
This is a much simpler problem to solve since notification emails are easy to identify. They usually have an unsubscribe link and a standard template. The difference is, I don’t want them marked as spam. I actually do like reading notifications–just not immediately. I want all notifications put in a separate folder that I can browse at my leisure.
Email notifications should be treated like push notifications. Give me an alert that there are new notifications and let me browse through them later. Use filtering to sort the notifications by service and display them the same way they are in Android or iOS. Well..perhaps with some improvements.