silencer

The mobile revolution has not come quietly. Our phones often erupt in spontaneous symphonies as messaging services, news apps, and social networks buzz and beep to let us know that something has happened in our corner of the Web. While this can be helpful, the messages sent by so many apps can also turn these timely trills into an unwelcome cacophony.

Appboy, a mobile marketing and analytics company, is today announcing its in-app News Feed in an effort to muffle that incessant buzzing. The tool allows developers and marketers to build a Facebook-like stream of news directly into their apps, offering them a chance to reach their customers without having to send yet another notification to their phones.

“Users are receiving push notifications all the time for no reason,” says Appboy CEO Mark Ghermezian. “News Feed is meant to feel like part of the overall app experience — and people can ignore it. It’s not just bombarding them with information.” He adds that marketers will continue using push notifications and email to reach their customers, and that Appboy will continue to support those efforts, but his hope is that people will use these tools responsibly instead of blowing up everyone’s phone.

The tool exists in stark contrast to Broadcast, a new service from App.net that allows users to receive push notifications about the things they care about, from emergency alerts to updates from their favorite bands. It’s basically a louder, next-generation version of RSS that seeks to provide useful information without requiring any action on the user’s part. (Funnily enough, App.net founder Dalton Caldwell introduced Broadcast by saying in a blog post that “It’s a noisy world out there.”)

All of that is to say that push notifications aren’t going anywhere. Too many companies rely on them to keep users interested in their services, and tools like IFTTT have made it easy to receive notifications involving real-world updates about things like the weather or a package’s arrival. The ability to make millions of people’s phones sing or vibrate is far too appealing for many marketers and developers to give up.

But that doesn’t mean that our phones have to whistle or chirp or play some techno-inspired sound loops every time a friend shares a status update, a retailer offers a new coupon, or some potentially-newsworthy event happens in a place you haven’t even heard of. Caldwell is right in saying that it’s a noisy world out there, and Broadcast might help quiet the digital cacophony, but tools like Appboy’s News Feed (or a good pair of earmuffs) will also muffle the resulting real-world notifications