I was today years old when I learned where push notifications live

Ever wonder where push notifications live? I fired up my old Galaxy Note 8 to do a couple of shots of my S21’s cracked screen. The Note 8 had not been on for a couple of weeks, I think the last time it was on I was reviewing a magnetic adhesive ring, and upon booting up the notifications started flowing in for weeks worth of updates.

Old chats on Facebook Messenger, notifications I’d dismissed last week on the S21, all of this stuff that this Note 8 had to be pulling from somewhere. I’d often wondered where this stuff actually existed, but today, after some of the worst google search phrasing in history, I managed to locate it. I think.

Where push notifications live

TL;DR – each OS (Windows, iOS, Android, Fire, whatever,) has its own servers devoted to hosting this information and disseminating it to the operating system.
TTL;DRsome servers out there, you probably already knew this, just let me have this one accomplishment today.

This is an absurd simplification of the process and if you want to read detailed information on how it all works I’d refer you to either this guide, or this one.

Today I learned about app push notifications, not web push notifications, so let’s not get the two confused because I just figured out the one. I’ve got a mention on the web side but they’ve got a different set of headaches.

Basically your phone, tablet, operating system, adopted pet, is in constant communication with an Operating System Push Notification Service while it’s connected to the internet. When something comes your way it grabs it and deals with it. Sometimes dealing with it involves sending the data to the app, sometimes it just involves popping up a notification in your alerts.

The pusher robot doesn't have much to do with where push notifications live unless it involves the terrible secret of space.
Notifications for terrible secrets of space are filtered

Each OSPNS has its own limits for how long and how much data is actually saved before being culled. In my case a couple of weeks worth of notifications were stored (at least,) and turning on the Note 8 just went through from the last push notification to the current.

The story gets interesting when you’re dealing with multiple OSes however as the apps and servers have to register with multiple OSPNS, but the basics appear the same. App installed on phone, registers itself with the app developer, app developer associates your device and hands off pairing info to the OSPNS, stuff is put in your bucket to haul up from the well of the internet.

You can catch sometimes that one OS’s OSPNS didn’t get the memo or dropped a notification while everything on another OS works fine. That’s just life.

In the only scenario I could find a flowchart of – Smart Wi-Fi Air Sensor X reports to server at company X that makes Smart Air Sensor. Company takes information, sends it to OSPNS with your target information. Your phone picks it up a short while later and the Smart Air Sensor app processes the notification. You then get an alert however you defined it in the app and by your OS.

Web push notifications are a little different and can not utilize device features. Only recently started supporting larger images. And generally are not as reliable based on what I’ve seen with our push notification service on Pocketables (which I ended up removing because of the sign-up-flow).

And now you know where push notifications live (on a random server)… feel free to tell me what I got wrong, I’ve been wondering where this stuff existed for a while and could only find hardcore documentation on how to register your API with an OSPNS and yeah…

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts

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