Facebook Introduces Browser Tab Alerts

Internet browser tabs that are open to Facebook now show the combined number of new notifications, friend requests, and messages you have awaiting view. The indication numeral appears between the word “Facebook” and the name of the specific page you’re viewing. Users can now tell if they have fresh Facebook activity, even if viewing another tab.

This change increases the power, and likely the click-through rate of these types of alerts. As multitasking while using Facebook becomes common, this method of drawing users away from their email or web search to check each individual alert could significantly increase engagement.

Actions that show up on a user’s home page but not in the top navigation bar, such as event invitations, pokes, Page suggestions and others, are unaffected by this change.

Already, when a user receives a friend request, message or notification (such as when a friend writes on their wall), they see a red numeral appear over the person, message, or globe icon on the top navigation bar which is present wherever a user navigates on Facebook. No matter how many alerts have stacked up in one of these channels, when a user clicks the icon, this numeral disappears. If a user clicks through to view the action that caused one alert, they must remember they have other unviewed alerts, since the numeral is gone. This likely means that one or many alerts stacked in the same channel frequently generate the same number of clicks: 1.

Facebook’s solution to this loss of potential clicks is to get users to view each alert as it happens, before more can stack up. These new browser tab notifications aid this, drawing attention to Facebook even amongst a sea of open tabs. Browser tab alerts facilitate Facebook’s evolution from a visited destination like a web page, to a utility frequently left open in the browser, like email. The change also equalizes the three alert channels even though most users get many more notifications than messages or friend requests.

If an action makes its way into the feed where it can generate notifications to all who interact with it, it can expect more return visits from those notified thanks to this change. However, spammy alerts, such as those generated when an event needlessly changes its name or sends a low-content message to all who have RSVP’d, are also now more visible.

[Graph from the Morpace Omnibus Report (.pdf), June,  2010]

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