What is the Deal with In App Browsers and Push Notifications ?

At iZooto, we deal with a varied range of publishers – including the likes of Network18, Bhaskar, Zee India, IndianExpress and many more. A question which pops up every now and then is whether or not the In App browsers support web push notifications. For publishers, especially the large ones, this is an extremely critical question, because Facebook as a source contributes over 40% of their total traffic. Here is an overview of which In App browsers support web push and which one does not.

Understanding In App Browsers

“In App Browser” is nothing but a web view that provides limited browsing functionality as a sub process of the app that triggers the web view. This also facilitates the flow of information from the browser view to the parent app.

Android iOS
Twitter Chrome Chrome
Facebook Facebook’s Own Native Browser
Linkedin Chrome Chrome

So Linkedin and Twitter In App Browser support web push notifications ?

Twitter and Linkedin, both use Chrome as it’s In App Browser / webview, ensuring that the experience is same as that of chrome. Now given that the webview is in Chrome itself, as long as the version of Chrome on the device is above 42, web push notifications are supported. What that means is that subscription prompt for push notifications will function as expected. You can trigger the prompt, allowing them to subscribe. Note – this is only applicable for Android and not iOS

Does Facebook’s In App Browser support web push notifications ?

app browsers

No. Facebook does not use Chrome as it’s InApp Browser push notifications. It is important to understand a bit more about Facebook’s In App Browser. Facebook’s In App browser has received multiple updates in 2016. If you haven’t looked at the impact of Facebook’s In App Browser on your overall site traffic, it might be worth doing. The in-app browser’s contribution to web traffic is on the rise and it does raise a few questions on the current market share of browsers. It’s about time that website owners and marketers take notice of this.

What is more important to notice is that Facebook App Browser traffic share for publishers now varies from 2% (for sites like MSN.com Rank # 22 ) to 90% ( for littlethings.com Rank# 2 ). Refer to this post from Similar web blog to understand the contribution of Facebook to publisher traffic.

These stats are staggering. Important to note is this – users tend to not to think of Facebook’s In  App browser as a browser – it also hides in Google Analytics and once disabled, you can easily forget about it. So much that – How to disable Facebook’s in app browser remains a popular search term.

app browsers

Here is what quick analysis tells us –

  • 17% out of Top 300 English Language Publications depend on Facebook for 50% (and more) of their traffic
  • Facebook’s In App Browser contributes over 70% of traffic for 11% of these leading publications
  • 4% of these publishers depend on Facebook for their 85% of web traffic.

This article by Oko talks about how to ensure proper tracking of Facebook In app traffic in Google Analytics. “In-app browsers” like that of Facebook especially, are not actual browsers, but a mere webview window running off your device’s core browser. For instance, Safari passes the “(in-app)” string into the browser name, but others don’t.  As far as Google Analytics is concerned, a webview window based on Chrome is simply Chrome ( as in case of traffic coming in via Linkedin and Twitter)

Important to note that that In-app browsers do give themselves away in the user-agent string (the strings FBAV and FBAN are footprints left by the Facebook browser). However, this is not accessible in Google Analytics without passing it in as a custom variable. Read the guide by Oko to configure this correctly.

Does this impact your website adversely ?

app browsers

On multiple grounds, Yes. To start with, you need to understand the underlying objective here – Facebook’s goal is to ensure that the user does not move away from the app itself. Both Instant Articles and In App traffic are steps towards ensuring that users consume content within the Facebook container. The impact of both these practices are widespread ranging from impact on CPM bids to less engaged traffic. While Google has been pushing for creating a more powerful web browser, Facebook’s intent here seems counter intuitive. The key challenges revolve around –

  1. Limiting Personalisation: Given that InApp Browser can’t access the parent browser cookies, these users are treated as unique new users, limiting your ability to personalise. Not only does the tracking go for a toss but it also leads to duplicates in the system  
  2. Far From Native Experience: The experience on the original browser (Chrome atleast) is now becoming near native. With progressive web apps and push notifications, marketers and website owners have the ability to create powerful experiences. Facebook’s In App browser limits that drastically where users can’t open new tabs, permission boxes can’t be triggered. The experience is sluggish and 1998ish
  3. Ad Revenues: Because of inappropriate tracking, CPM and Bid rates go for a toss. The fact that the impression and view data is not accessible to ad networks and ad exchanges, impacts the CPM rates negatively.

It will be interesting to see how Facebook positions the In-App browser. As a stand alone full fledged browser, it could be great boon for publishers, but at the moment publishers are between a rock and deep sea. Also, when you apply this view point to your regular browser usage data, the statistics now appear convoluted.

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