Twitter's Latest Acquisition Will Address Annoying Push Notifications

Social media, just like any other tool, can be beneficial or destructive. Unlike most tools, however, these Internet platforms are designed in a way to get you hooked on them, much to the dismay of parents and many psychologists. It has only been recently that people have become more conscious of the potentially addictive aspects of the likes of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and have demanded that these platforms implement features that will encourage — or even force — users to take a time out once in a while. 

Those breaks can only do so much, however, and they don't always address some of the bigger problems, particularly when it comes to distracting notifications. That's what makes Twitter's latest acquisition particularly interesting, as it presents the opportunity to make push notifications more relevant to a user's interests without violating their privacy by snooping on their tweets and the people they follow.

Disruptive notifications aren't the fault of social media alone. They have been around since the dawn of smartphones, which ushered notification systems into our daily lives. Before smartphones, our phones would only disturb us through calls and SMS. Today, most apps can send a notification, even those that have no business interrupting your flow.

Social networking apps are particularly bad when it comes to this issue because of the number of updates users in your social circle make each day. The likes of Twitter and Facebook offer controls to limit those alerts, but they are often still lacking. For example, you might limit notifications so that you only get ones about close friends, but those friends may still be too active for your tastes. Alternatively, you could also limit notifications from a select few people, but that requires disabling or enabling notifications on a per-user basis, which can take quite a bit of time.

OpenBack may change the quality of Twitter notifications

A company called OpenBack offers device-side push notification management that filters notifications to only the ones a user would consider relevant. This means that, at least in theory, users will only get the notifications they really care about, weeding out all of the nuisance recommendations, alerts about people they may not follow, and other unwanted messages.

In an announcement today, Twitter revealed that it has acquired OpenBack, which will shut down on April 19. The company's technology will give Twitter a huge advantage over its competitors, at least as far as push notifications are concerned. It has even been suggested that Twitter could create a completely new timeline filled with only the notifications users are likely to care about, in contrast to the "Home" and "Latest" timelines that include all tweets, just in different orders.

Another important detail about OpenBack's integration into Twitter is privacy. The device-side first approach means that no data needs to be collected and transmitted through the internet, which always carries the risk of security and privacy breaches. How Twitter will implement and respect these privacy measures remains to be seen, but it won't come as a shock if the company finds a way to monetize this, especially with partners who may be willing to pay huge sums to get their notifications pushed.