Browser-Powered Desktop Notifications Are Coming To Gmail

Now this is nice. If you’re a heavy Gmail user you’ve probably installed some kind of desktop notification system — be it a browser extension, a separate Gmail app like Mailplane and/or Growl. But now, hot on the heels of launching a dynamic unread count in browser tabs, Gmail is launching something that doesn’t require any downloads: built-in desktop notifications.

A small banner on Gmail just prompted me to enable the feature, which works for both inbound chat and email messages (you can opt to receive notifications for all new emails, or just ‘Important’ ones as deemed by your Priority Inbox). Google is probably rolling this out gradually (there’s no blog post yet), but I’m seeing it in both of my accounts.

The ‘Help’ page for the feature is blank (despite the fact that the banner links to it) so details are still pretty scant. This is presumably using HTML5 browser notifications, and is apparently only working in Chrome — I tried testing it in Safari and received this message:

In practice it seems to work fairly well, though I think I’ll be sticking with Growl for now. I’m noticing that the notifications don’t have a minimum time that they’ll apear on screen — if a friend of mine sends multiple IMs in succession, the newest will immediately pop up over the older ones. Even worse, it looks like there’s no timeout for the notification — a friend just IMed me, and her notification has been hanging out in the corner of my screen for a full minute now.