The Notifications API lets a web page or app send notifications that are displayed outside the page at the system level; this lets web apps send information to a user even if the application is idle or in the background. This article looks at the basics of using this API in your own apps.

Note: This feature is available in Web Workers.

Typically, system notifications refer to the operating system's standard notification mechanism: think for example of how a typical desktop system or mobile device broadcasts notifications.

The system notification system will vary of course by platform and browser, but this is ok, and the Notifications API is written to be general enough for compatibility with most system notification systems.

Examples

One of the most obvious use cases for web notifications is a web-based mail or IRC application that needs to notify the user when a new message is received, even if the user is doing something else with another application. Many real examples of this now exist, such as Slack.

We've written a real world demo to give more of an idea of how web notifications can be used:

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Requesting permission

Before an app can send a notification, the user must grant the application the right to do so. This is a common requirement when an API tries to interact with something outside a web page — at least once, the user needs to specifically grant that application permission to present notifications, thereby letting the user control which apps/sites are allowed to display notifications.

Checking current permission status

You can check to see if you already have permission by checking the value of the Notification.permission read only property. It can have one of three possible values:

default
The user hasn't been asked for permission yet, so notifications won't be displayed.
granted
The user has granted permission to display notifications, after having been asked previously.
denied
The user has explicitly declined permission to show notifications.

Getting permission

If permission to display notifications hasn't been granted yet, the application needs to use the Notification.requestPermission() method to request this from the user. In its simplest form, we just include the following:

Notification.requestPermission().then(function(result) {
  console.log(result);
});

This uses the promise-version of the method, as supported in recent implementations (Firefox 47, for example.) If you want to support older versions, you might have to use the older callback version, which looks like this:

Notification.requestPermission();

The callback version optionally accepts a callback function that is called once the user has responded to the request to display permissions (as seen in the second else ... if block below.) Commonly, you'll ask for permission to display notifications when your app is first initialized, and before trying to instantiate any. If you wanted to be really thorough, you could use a construct like the following (see To-do List Notifications):

function notifyMe() {
  // Let's check if the browser supports notifications
  if (!("Notification" in window)) {
    alert("This browser does not support system notifications");
  }

  // Let's check whether notification permissions have already been granted
  else if (Notification.permission === "granted") {
    // If it's okay let's create a notification
    var notification = new Notification("Hi there!");
  }

  // Otherwise, we need to ask the user for permission
  else if (Notification.permission !== 'denied') {
    Notification.requestPermission(function (permission) {
      // If the user accepts, let's create a notification
      if (permission === "granted") {
        var notification = new Notification("Hi there!");
      }
    });
  }

  // Finally, if the user has denied notifications and you 
  // want to be respectful there is no need to bother them any more.
}

Note: Before version 37, Chrome doesn't let you call Notification.requestPermission() in the load event handler (see issue 274284).

In Chrome 62 and newer you cannot request notification api at all unless the site is https:// secured. (see issue 779612) If you do have https on the site you should be able to use notifications and background push notifications.

Creating a notification

Creating a notification is easy; just use the Notification constructor. This constructor expects a title to display within the notification and some options to enhance the notification such as an icon or a text body.

For example, in the to-do-list example we use the following snippet to create a notification when required (found inside the createNotification() function):

var img = '/to-do-notifications/img/icon-128.png';
var text = 'HEY! Your task "' + title + '" is now overdue.';
var notification = new Notification('To do list', { body: text, icon: img });

Closing notifications

Firefox and Safari close notifications automatically after a few moments (around four seconds). This may also happen at the operating system level. Some browsers don't however, such as Chrome. To make sure that the notifications close in all browsers, you can call the Notification.close function inside a setTimeout() function to close the notification after 4 seconds. Also note the use of bind() to make sure the close() call is associated with the notification.

setTimeout(notification.close.bind(n), 4000);

Note: When you receive a "close" event, there is no guarantee that it's the user who closed the notification. This is in line with the specification, which states: "When a notification is closed, either by the underlying notifications platform or by the user, the close steps for it must be run."

Notification events

The notifications API spec lists two events that are triggered on the Notification instance:

click
Triggered when the user clicks on the notification.
error
Triggered if something goes wrong with the notification; this is usually because the notification couldn't be displayed for some reason.

These events can be tracked using the onclick and onerror handlers. Because Notification also inherits from EventTarget, it's possible to use the addEventListener() method on it.

There are also two other events that used to be listed in the spec, but were recently removed. These may still work in browsers for a while, but they should be treated as obsolete and not used:

close
Triggered once the notification is closed.
show
Triggered when the notification is displayed to the user.

Replacing existing notifications

It is usually undesirable for a user to receive a lot of notifications in a short space of time — for example, what if a messenger application notified a user for each incoming message, and they were being sent a lot? To avoid spamming the user with too many notifications, it's possible to modify the pending notifications queue, replacing single or multiple pending notifications with a new one.

To do this, it's possible to add a tag to any new notification. If a notification already has the same tag and has not been displayed yet, the new notification replaces that previous notification. If the notification with the same tag has already been displayed, the previous notification is closed and the new one is displayed.

Tag example

Assume the following basic HTML:

<button>Notify me!</button>

It's possible to handle multiple notifications this way:

window.addEventListener('load', function () {
  // At first, let's check if we have permission for notification
  // If not, let's ask for it
  if (window.Notification && Notification.permission !== "granted") {
    Notification.requestPermission(function (status) {
      if (Notification.permission !== status) {
        Notification.permission = status;
      }
    });
  }

  var button = document.getElementsByTagName('button')[0];

  button.addEventListener('click', function () {
    // If the user agreed to get notified
    // Let's try to send ten notifications
    if (window.Notification && Notification.permission === "granted") {
      var i = 0;
      // Using an interval cause some browsers (including Firefox) are blocking notifications if there are too much in a certain time.
      var interval = window.setInterval(function () {
        // Thanks to the tag, we should only see the "Hi! 9" notification 
        var n = new Notification("Hi! " + i, {tag: 'soManyNotification'});
        if (i++ == 9) {
          window.clearInterval(interval);
        }
      }, 200);
    }

    // If the user hasn't told if he wants to be notified or not
    // Note: because of Chrome, we are not sure the permission property
    // is set, therefore it's unsafe to check for the "default" value.
    else if (window.Notification && Notification.permission !== "denied") {
      Notification.requestPermission(function (status) {
        // If the user said okay
        if (status === "granted") {
          var i = 0;
          // Using an interval cause some browsers (including Firefox) are blocking notifications if there are too much in a certain time.
          var interval = window.setInterval(function () {
            // Thanks to the tag, we should only see the "Hi! 9" notification 
            var n = new Notification("Hi! " + i, {tag: 'soManyNotification'});
            if (i++ == 9) {
              window.clearInterval(interval);
            }
          }, 200);
        }

        // Otherwise, we can fallback to a regular modal alert
        else {
          alert("Hi!");
        }
      });
    }

    // If the user refuses to get notified
    else {
      // We can fallback to a regular modal alert
      alert("Hi!");
    }
  });
});

See the live result below:

Receiving notification of clicks on app notifications

When a user clicks on a notification generated by an app, you will be notified of this event in two different ways, depending on the circumstance:

  1. A click event if your app has not closed or been put in the background between the time you create the notification and the time the user clicks on it.
  2. A system message otherwise.

See this code snippet for an example of how to deal with this.

Specifications

Specification Status Comment
Notifications API Living Standard Living standard

Browser compatibility

FeatureChromeEdgeFirefoxInternet ExplorerOperaSafari
Basic support

221

5 -webkit-

Yes

22

4 -moz-

No256
Available in workers45 Yes41 No32 ?
Secure contexts only62 ? ? No49 ?
actions53 No No No39 ?
badge53 No No No39 ?
body Yes ? Yes No ? ?
data Yes ? Yes No ? ?
dir Yes ? Yes No ? ?
icon

22

5 -webkit-

?

22

4 -moz-

No25 No
image53 ? No No40 ?
lang Yes ? Yes No ? ?
maxActions Yes ? No No ? ?
onclick Yes ? No No ? ?
onclose Yes ? Yes No ? ?
onerror Yes ? No No ? ?
onshow Yes ? Yes No ? ?
permission Yes ? Yes No ? ?
renotify50 No No No37 No
requireInteraction Yes ? No No ? ?
silent43 No No No30 No
tag Yes ? Yes No ? ?
timestamp Yes ? No No ? ?
title Yes ? No No ? ?
vibrate53 No No No39 ?
close Yes ? Yes No ? ?
requestPermission46 ?47 No40 ?
FeatureAndroid webviewChrome for AndroidEdge mobileFirefox for AndroidOpera AndroidiOS SafariSamsung Internet
Basic support No Yes ?

22

4 -webkit-

Yes No ?
Available in workers No45 Yes4132 ? ?
Secure contexts only No62 ? ?49 ? ?
actions No53 No No39 ? ?
badge No53 No No39 ? ?
body No Yes ? Yes ? ? ?
data No Yes ? Yes ? ? ?
dir No Yes ? Yes ? ? ?
icon No Yes ?

22

4 -moz-

Yes No ?
image No53 ? No40 ? ?
lang No Yes ? Yes ? ? ?
maxActions No Yes ? No ? ? ?
onclick No Yes ? No ? ? ?
onclose No Yes ? Yes ? ? ?
onerror No Yes ? No ? ? ?
onshow No Yes ? Yes ? ? ?
permission No Yes ? Yes ? ? ?
renotify No50 No No37 No ?
requireInteraction No Yes ? No ? ? ?
silent No43 No No30 No ?
tag No Yes ? Yes ? ? ?
timestamp No Yes ? No ? ? ?
title No Yes ? No ? ? ?
vibrate No53 No No39 ? ?
close No Yes ? Yes ? ? ?
requestPermission No46 ? Yes40 ? ?

1. Before Chrome 22, the support for notification followed an old prefixed version of the specification and used the navigator.webkitNotifications object to instantiate a new notification. Before Chrome 32, Notification.permission was not supported. Before Chrome 42, service worker additions were not supported. Starting in Chrome 49, notifications do not work in incognito mode.

See also