Browsers are adding features so fast that it’s hard to keep track of them. Internet Explorer offers live tile notifications and taskbar badges, Safari offers push notifications, Chrome has its own notification center, and Ubuntu offers web app notifications.
All of the features below will only work on websites that have specifically implemented support for them. Notifications are another powerful new browser feature becoming more and more widespread.
Internet Explorer Live Tiles
On Windows 8.1, Internet Explorer 11 can now display live tiles for websites you pin to your Start screens. This allows you to see the latest updates from your pinned websites on the Start screen in the same way native Windows 8-style apps use live tiles. To use this, you’ll have to pin a site that has enabled live tile support.
To do this, open a website in the Windows 8-style version of Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 8.1. Tap the star icon on the navigation bar, tap the pin icon, and then pin the site to your Start screen. If the site supports live tiles, it will automatically update.
For example, here’s a Techmeme live tile in action.
Safari Push Notifications
Safari now allows websites to use push notifications and send updates right to your desktop. When you visit a website that supports push notifications, you’ll see a prompt asking whether you want to enable them.
If you consent, you’ll see notification bubbles on your Mac desktop whenever the website sends out notifications. These also appear in the notification center, giving you a single place to see the latest updates from your favorite websites.
These notifications can be controlled from the Notification pane in the System Preferences app. To stop a website from sending notifications entirely, you’ll need to remove the website from the Notifications pane in Safari’s Preferences window.
Chrome Notification Center
Chrome now has its own notification center that appears as a system tray icon, gathering all your Chrome notifications into one place. Websites can ask to display notifications and they’ll appear here. This only works if the website is open in a tab in the background.
For example, you can enable Gmail notifications by going to the Gmail website, opening your Settings page, and scrolling down to the Notifications section. Select notifications for chat messages, new email, or only important new mail. The notifications will appear as bubbles on your desktop, but only when Gmail is open in the background.
Chrome apps can use such notifications without any setup. We’ll likely see Chrome apps take more advantage of the notification center in the future as they mature.
Internet Explorer Pinned Sites
On Windows 7 and Windows 8′s desktop, Internet Explorer can show desktop notifications via the pinned sites feature. Pin a website to your taskbar and the website can display an icon overlay to notify you of new content. This will only work if the website is actually open as a window in the background.
To do this, visit a website in Internet Explorer for the desktop and drag the website’s icon from its address bar to your taskbar. The pinned site will get its own taskbar icon and separate browser window. You’ll also see notification counters appear on the icon if the website supports them.
For example, Microsoft’s Outlook.com email service displays a notification to inform you of new emails. Facebook also supports this feature.
Ubuntu Web App Integration
Ubuntu has had web app integration since Ubuntu 12.10. When you visit a supported site, you’ll be asked if you want to install integration features. For example, you can visit the BBC News site in your browser and enable web app integration. You’ll then receive desktop notifications with new BBC news headlines.
If you’re using Firefox and want to see in-browser notifications for websites, email, and other things you care about, you’ll have to install an extension that provides these notifications.
While Firefox seems to support HTML5 desktop notifications, they don’t seem compatible with Chrome’s notification system. For example, notifications on sites like Gmail work in Chrome, but don’t work in Firefox. While this probably isn’t Firefox’s fault and Chrome may be doing something non-standard, the end result is that Firefox is behind.