Push notifications seem so handy, except when they arrive to your laptop, tablet, smartphone—and heaven forbid—even a smartwatch and Google Glass at the same time. So whenever you have a meeting or a new email, it’s like a tornado is about to blow through your desk. YOUR MOM HAS LIKED YOUR MOST RECENT FACEBOOK POST. TAKE SHELTER IMMEDIATELY.
Skype has a new solution called "active endpoint." Basically, if you’re using Skype on any device, it will turn off notifications to every other device. As the company explains the feature:
If you are signed in to Skype on multiple devices (a laptop, tablet and a smartphone) and you are sending chat messages to a group of friends from your tablet. Skype will only send new message notifications to your tablet and not to any of your other devices. All of your other devices will remain blissfully silent. You can continue to focus on the most important thing, your conversations, without being disturbed by the bleeping and buzzing from all of your other devices.
The moment you stop actively using Skype on any device, all devices will receive notifications again to make sure you never miss anything important. When you pick up any one of your devices to respond, we will stop send notifications to all other devices. Call notifications are still sent to all devices so you can answer on whichever gadget you prefer, not just the one you’re closest to.
What Skype doesn't explain is what exactly constitutes "active" use, but it sounds like Skype is monitoring variables beyond just having an app open on a device and turning off its push notifications accordingly (several apps already do just that). I'm guessing that Skype sees if you're typing, clicking, or calling and balances notifications from there.
So what other types of apps could take advantage of such technology? Email services like Gmail for one—along with pretty much every other Google service. Social networks like Twitter and Facebook, too.
Of course, with all respect to Skype, they have a lower-stakes platform than some, which allows them to attempt such an approach. Think about it: Temporarily missing a message is really no big deal. We fail to respond to phone calls, instant messages, and texts all the time. It’s a socially acceptable nuance of contemporary communication.
But imagine if GCal deactivated a reminder to your phone just because you had your calendar open on your work computer, while you, having forgotten your meeting with your boss, were pulling off a bang-bang over an extended lunch. Missing a call is one thing. Missing a face-to-face because of a craving for Korean BBQ and tacos is another.
Indeed, 9 times out of 10, a solution like Skype’s may solve our problem with constant notifications. But this is a case where, to create the idyllic user experience across all apps, we need to get the underlying technology to work 10 out of 10 times, first.
And that’s where context-aware gadgets and software get very exciting. If the Googles of the world know, via GPS, that your phone is at lunch while every other gadget is at work—or if they’re smart enough to realize that you’re already sitting down for that meeting with your boss before pulling the trigger on a dozen push notifications—they can tailor a less DEFCON 5 approach to notifications to every moment of our day without risking that we'll miss the message.