I have a problem with my digital life: too many places I have to check for notifications. Reddit, twitter, gmail, protonmail, discord, matrix, collapsitarian.io, and I think there used to be more. Checking each of them every day:

Now, I think lots of others have this problem too. That suggests a general solution is called for.

Why haven't you set up email notifications for all of these things?

Because then I can't have different settings about how my computer should alert me. Protonmail's interface sends me a desktop notification when I get a new email, but of course, it's for every new email. And filtering by sender isn't good enough: for example, I want "new reply to your tweet" and "someone liked a reply to your tweet" to be treated differently.

And sometimes a platform doesn't have notification customization settings (fucking twitter), or they're hard to find.

I think email is fundamentally incapable of perfectly solving this problem because email is free-form communication, not structured data, so it can't be categorized and filtered. Communication and notification are different things; I'm not sure the same protocol should provide both. I'm imagining a new protocol. You would have a notification server just as you have an email server. Here's a sketch of the UX:

I make an account on reddit. I give them my notification address and there are no other on-site settings related to notifications. I make a post titled "Question about X". When someone replies to me, reddit sends my notification server a JSON object like this:

{"type": "reply", "user": "AnswerHaver689", "post": "Question about X", "link": "https://reddit.com/comments/sn85t74s58ow35"}

My notification server fetches this, adds "source":"reddit.com" (added by the notification server to prevent spoofing), and my notification client fetches it. In my client app, I could have settings like:

And then all these platforms stop having in-app notifications. All notifications from everything are sent to my notification server so I can control them.


I don't see any downsides. While I know that adding new software should never be done lightly, due to benefit #3 I think it's a good trade even without the other benefits.

And the implementation of the notification server itself is extremely simple. I might write a proof of concept. It should be doable in less than 500 lines. The client app is more complicated, but a good one should still be less than 2000.

This page was last modified 2021-12-03 00:10 (UTC).

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