I asked on Twitter yesterday if anyone would like to compare the "Notifo" service to the "Prowl" application for handling push notifications to iPhone and other mobile devices. No one answered, and so here's my brief rundown comparing the two.
If you don't already know about push notifications, a brief primer: they're basically just like text messages, except they can be routed/categorized in ways that make them useful to individual applications on your phone. Instead of getting a generic SMS text message when someone DMs you on Twitter, you can instead use push notifications to have the Twitter app on your phone realize a new DM has come in and alert you according to your personal settings. When you "view" a push notification, you can be taken to a web page or app that's relevant to its content. Best part: the messages don't count against any text messaging limit (for now).
I started using Prowl about 9 months ago. My three main uses were:
- Notifying me when certain types of e-mail messages are received (using a combination of Procmail and prowl.pl)
- Notifying me when I'm addressed or mentioned in certain IRC channels (using the prowlnotify.pl script with irssi)
- Notifying me when I'm mentioned on Twitter (using Preyfetcher)
Prowl worked great, and I was very happy with it for these uses.
Recently, I had an itch to scratch with push notifications, and when I looked for someone else who might have already scratched that itch, I noticed that Prowl was last updated in August 2009. Some of the things I wanted to be able to do with Prowl would need to be custom built.
But wait! There was this hot new app/service called Notifo that seemed to have a much more active user community developing cool new uses for its platform (including a solution for the itch I wanted to scratch). With plans to launch an Android and Blackberry app soon, releasing their iPhone app (last updated in September 2010) for free, and a well thought out API infrastructure, Notifo is clearly positioning themselves to be THE realtime mobile notifications service.
And it turned out to be a drop-in replacement for Prowl. The most recent version of the Twitter app for iPhone now includes push notifications, so I'm down to two uses for Notifo:
- Notifying me when certain types of e-mail messages are received (using a combination of Procmail and a custom notifo.pl script using WWW::Notifo)
- Notifying me when I'm addressed or mentioned in certain IRC channels (using the notifonotify script with irssi)
I'm also playing with some other uses:
- Notifications when new items appear in certain RSS feeds
- Notifications from our Nagios-based server monitoring infrastructure
- Notifications when certain activities happen on blogs that I maintain
- Re-routing my real SMS notifications through Notifo so I don't need to pay for an SMS messaging add-on to my phone plan
Prowl remains a usable and time-tested solution, but the app isn't free and the community around it seems stagnant. Notifo is newer and shinier and will probably have some growing pains, but they're doing it right as far as I can tell, their app is free, and their interface is more flexible.
If you've tried one or both out, what do you think?
Regardless of what you think of it, the "realtime web" is here, and I'm enjoying playing around with what it has to offer. (Beyond the scope of this blog post is addressing the fundamental question about whether or not it's a good thing to be increasing the number of disruptive, "look at me now" events I have in my daily life, but your smug comments on this matter are still welcome.)