With updated notifications, Facebook pulls people down the rabbit hole

Facebook is rolling out an updated notifications tab today that puts local news, upcoming events, and other miscellaneous information next to the messages informing people that someone has liked a status update or shared a photo.

Facebook's newly updated Notifications tab aims to move beyond alerts for comments, likes, and friend requests.

Facebook’s newly updated Notifications tab aims to move beyond alerts for comments, likes, and friend requests.


The update is a tacit admission that Facebook holds too much information that people are expected to hunt down. A friend’s birthday is on their profile page, the address for a concert is on its event page; and the time a television show airs is found on yet another page. Now that will all be funneled into a single place with today’s update.
Facebook will offer other information, too, in this updated notifications tab. Want to know about the weather? How about when a movie is playing? Or a list of recommendations for dinner spots? Sure, you can find all those things with other services, but now you can also see everything right from Facebook’s app.
It’s a bit like Google Now but for Facebook. Google wanted to become the one place where people turn to find information; now Facebook wants to do the same. There are differences — Google Now pulls information from other apps, whereas Facebook seems to be limited to its own data — but the idea’s the same.
Facebook also has the benefit of sticking this in a place where everyone will see it. The company has occasion to make people’s phones buzz in their pockets many times throughout the day, thanks to the sheer amount of comments, likes, shares, and other forms of interaction available on everything that’s shared to it.
Now, every time one of those notifications is sent, people have a chance to fall down the rabbit hole. Only instead of finding the Wonderland into which Alice fell, they’ll enter a world where people share their opinions, their photographs, and the funniest memes in exchange for the only currency that matters, “Likes.”
It’s a good plan to make people more dependent on Facebook, to spend more time in its mobile app, and even to provide yet another place where the company can put advertisements between the things people really want to see. The update is rolling out to Android and iPhone users in the United States now.
For a closer look, check out the demo video below from Facebook.

Details emerge about Facebook’s news app, Notify

There’s no better way for a company to capture someone’s attention than sending a notification to that person’s smartphone. We’ve turned into Pavlov’s dogs, only instead of salivating when a scientists rings a bell, we fire little shots of dopamine upon feeling the familiar vibration of a handset coming from our pockets. Facebook knows this, and will reportedly take full advantage via a new news application called Notify that may debut soon.
For those keeping track, Notify would be Facebook’s second mobile news app after Paper — third if you count the main Facebook app.
So, how is this one different? Notify will apparently allow select publishers to send notifications to people who subscribe to a publication’s “Station” for breaking news alerts, according to a recent report from The Awl. This meshes with an earlier report from Business Insider, which states that Facebook is working on a “stand-alone mobile news application” meant to rival Twitter. A Facebook spokesperson declined to discuss Notify, telling Gigaom the standard “We don’t comment on rumors and speculation.”
So far, there haven’t been any reports about Notify having a connection to Facebook’s Instant Articles, which allow publishers to host content directly on Facebook rather than their own (usually slower) website. If news of the app is true, I wouldn’t be surprised if that changed before Notify’s debut.
Notify’s functionality could be enough to entice publishers struggling to get people to pay attention to their articles. News organizations are becoming more reliant on using push notifications to drive engagement to breaking news or exclusive coverage. Why? Well, as New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan stated in a response to reader complaints about push notifications, those little nudges can “quadruple mobile readership on Times digital platforms within about 15 minutes.”
In other words, Notify could help publishers reach more people, and presumably even drive higher traffic to their websites. It could also increase the value of being first and/or fast to breaking news. In return, Facebook would get even more control over the media — even among publishers it hasn’t convinced to sign up for Instant Articles — while making its users more important in the process. Facebook likely enjoys its position as the funnel between readers and reporters, and Notify could be yet another way to make sure that doesn’t change.
Then again, Notify could also fizzle out soon after its release. As previously mentioned, Facebook experimented with another news delivery platform, Paper, earlier this year. The app itself features a refreshing design, and clearly segregates real news from personal updates. But Paper also hasn’t been updated since March, and isn’t as popular as other Facebook apps, according to data gathered by the App Annie intelligence tool. (A Facebook spokesperson declined to discuss Paper’s fate with me.)
The rumored news app may debut later this month, according to The Awl’s report. We’ll have until then to enjoy the bliss of relatively quiet smartphones.

Where to find silent mode in Android Lollipop

If you’re lucky enough to have Android 5.0 Lollipop on your phone or tablet, you might be wondering where to find silent mode. It’s still there, but it’s under a different name: Priority Notifications.