Apple should allow Push Notifications to iPhone home screen URL bookmarks

February 11, 2010

Here is how it could work:

  1. The owner of a site adds the following meta tags to the page:
    <meta name="iphone_permissions" value="push"/>
    <meta name="iphone_callback" value="/iphone_callback"/>
    There might be other important tags like an application identifier that the owner registers with Apple.
  2. When a user adds that site to their home screen the iPhone fetches it, finds the tag, and prompts for the permissions.
  3. If the user grants permission the iPhone POSTs back to the callback value with all the information the application needs to start pushing to the iPhone. I don't really know what goes into this step but I'm sure there are some necessary identifiers the application needs. The important thing is that the POST contains the cookies for that domain, allowing the application to link the device and the authenticated user so it can send the appropriate notifications.
  4. Users of applications like Gmail, Google Voice, and FriendFeed that don't have iPhone applications enjoy all the benefits a real application has. Developers continue to push new code daily without dealing with the Apple approval process.

Obviously this isn't in Apple's short-term best interest. If this were added I'd have little reason to ever use the Mail app again. It would devalue the benefits one gets from building a full fledged iPhone application. Eventually Android will get push notifications and the meta tags could settle on a standard that all could use. Suddenly there is no developing for multiple platforms, no waiting for approval, and no missing features. Long-term Apple goes from having the largest app store to having the entire application ecosystem. Developers don't need to learn Objective-C; they can continue to use whatever language they like to build their web apps in. Devices stop differentiating themselves based on the number of applications that run on them and start improving the overall experience.