Microsoft Tackles Annoying Website Notifications

John Lister's picture

Microsoft is making two changes to make notifications less disruptive but still useful. The changes affects Microsoft's Edge browser and follow in the footsteps of changes made in Chrome and Firefox.

The first change affects standard notifications which appear at the top of the screen. They bring information from a website even when the user doesn't have it open. For example, a video streaming site might display a notification when it uploads a new episode of a series the user has watched in the past.

Browser makers have struggled to get the balance right between satisfying users who find notifications very useful, those who hate them, and those who rely on some (for example an alert from an online calendar tool), but get annoyed by others.

Low-Key Request System

Most browsers will only allow notifications once users have granted a particular site permission. The problem is that the original request for permission to display notifications can itself be disruptive, particularly as they are unsolicited.

The change to Edge means that by default a request won't "pop out" and cover up part of the page. Instead a small bell logo with a cross mark will appear in the toolbar, indicating that the site wants to use notifications but that permission isn't current granted. The theory is that this won't be overly distracting but does allow the user an easy way to accept notifications (by clicking on the bell) if they want them. (Source:

"Toast" To Disappear

The second change is to "toast notifications", which are theoretically restricted to the highest priority alerts. The name comes from the fact they pop up at the bottom of the screen in the same way as those from other Windows applications.

At the moment, toast notifications from Edge remain displayed until the user clicks or swipes to acknowledge and remove them. If the user is too busy to do so, it can lead to the notifications stacking up above one another and even reaching the top of the screen.

The change means the notifications will automatically disappear after 25 seconds even if users don't interact with them. Microsoft thinks that's long enough to glance and see if they are relevant, without drastically interrupting productivity. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Do you find browser notifications useful? Are you frustrated by frequent requests by websites to permit notifications? Do Microsoft's changes sound sensible?

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