XF 2.1 Push notifications

Welcome to the first of our "Have you seen...?" series for XenForo 2.1. We've got a lot to show you over the course of the next few weeks so you may well be hearing from us quite frequently... To ensure you're kept up to date, we strongly recommend clicking the "Watch forum" link here and enabling email notifications if you haven't done so already 🙂

But first...

The first thing that we should announce before we get started is something which we have talked about over the last year which is related to the minimum server requirements of XenForo 2.1. XenForo 2.0 currently requires a minimum of PHP 5.4, but with XenForo 2.1 we are increasing this to a minimum of PHP 5.6. Now, PHP 5.6 is still pretty old by today's standards, so you may be interested to understand why we have settled on that as our new minimum PHP version.

The answer is fairly simple, in that we are essentially trying to strike a balance between the features in PHP that we need to use, the requirements of third-party packages that we include with XenForo, and ultimately the common PHP versions that customers are using on their servers. Since XF 2.0.2 we have been keeping track of this, and these are the current results:

1539019830210.png

To the one customer who is running PHP 7.3 Alpha I sincerely hope you are doing so in a test environment 😉
As you can see, it seems like a fairly safe bet for us to consider leaving behind PHP 5.4 and PHP 5.5 as that amounts to only 6.5% of the total customer base. One could argue that PHP 7.0 would be an ok target too as the total PHP 7.x usage is at 55.3% but leaving behind a total of 44.7% of the total customer base seems unreasonable at this point. We'd strongly recommend everyone consider upgrading to PHP 7.2 as soon as possible.

That all said, we have mentioned previously that there is one feature which will require a minimum version of PHP 7.1 to use...

Push it real good...

Sorry, I couldn't help myself! 🙂

That's right, we're kicking off our XF 2.1 series of HYS threads by announcing that our most popular suggestion is implemented! Let's first look at how to set it up.

1539022286792.png

If the above browser/device requirements are frustrating then please direct your complaints to @WebKit on Twitter!

So, yes, first and foremost, you will need PHP 7.1 to enable this functionality. This enabled us to implement the functionality in a way that is compatible with as many browsers as possible, including Microsoft Edge on Android and Windows.

In addition to this, your site must be running over HTTPS with a valid SSL certificate, and you must have support for the GMP extension.

Unfortunately for reasons beyond our control (read: it's Apple's fault) the list of supported devices/browsers notably exclude Safari on macOS and any iOS-based browser. This functionality is made possible by making use of a number of APIs including the Push API and Notification API which most browsers support already.

On supported devices, the process looks something like this:

21push1.gif

You can also see that, just like alerts, we have provided a mechanism for you to be able to opt out of receiving certain push notifications. You may want to get forum alerts for everything, but only be notified by your browser for the things you find important.

The content of a push notification will be a slightly stripped down version of the default alert template. A brief note for developers; although there is code which will automatically convert HTML to a text-only version of the notification, the preferred method would be to create specific push template for each content type and action, and these will look similar to this:
HTML:
{{ phrase('x_quoted_your_post_in_thread_y', {
   'name': $user.username ?: $alert.username,
   'title': prefix('thread', $content.Thread, 'plain') . $content.Thread.title
}) }}
<push:url>{{ link('canonical:posts', $content) }}</push:url>

As you would expect with push notifications, you do not necessarily need to be viewing the forum when the notification is received, nor does the browser even need to be active, as demonstrated here:

21push2.gif

Naturally, clicking on the notification will take you straight to the content.


Alert read marking

Going straight to the content from wherever you are on your device is certainly convenient, but given that push notifications essentially represent forum alerts, it would be somewhat inconvenient to have to mark those as read too.

Therefore when you now visit content which you have previously been alerted to, the corresponding alert(s) will now be automatically marked as read.


"But I have an Apple device, will you support push notifications another way...?"

Unfortunately, this is unlikely. Although Apple devices represent a significant number of mobile users, the current approach other browser vendors are taking is standardised (meaning Apple devices could be nearly automatically supported in the future), free and seamlessly integrated with your browser. Any other approach, be that a separate app, or a third party service would, frankly, be a sub-par (and potentially expensive!) experience.

The overall solution is simple, but it is down to Apple/WebKit to take on board and implement. According to the WebKit Feature Status page, if there are any features missing you can reach out to @webkit on Twitter or contact the webkit-help mailing list. Consider doing that today to help them understand why push notifications are important for your forum 🙂


And, sadly, that brings the first HYS for XF 2.1 to an end! But don't worry - as mentioned earlier we have lots more to get through 🙂 And we may well see you for that fairly soon 😉
 
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Chris D

XenForo developer
Staff member
On Android it may depend more on the browser version. I think you can use the latest Chrome even on Android 4 or 5.

I can test it though later and report back. Definitely works back to Android 7 at least.
 

Martok

Well-known member
On Android it may depend more on the browser version. I think you can use the latest Chrome even on Android 4 or 5.

I can test it though later and report back. Definitely works back to Android 7 at least.
It should work on Android 6 too. My tablet is running this and I get browser push notifications from Facebook (I use the web version rather than the app) when using the latest version of Chrome. As you say, as long as you're using Chrome (and not other built-in browsers) it should work on Android.
 

Chris D

XenForo developer
Staff member
does works on all android devices/versions?
It should work on Android 6 too. My tablet is running this and I get browser push notifications from Facebook (I use the web version rather than the app) when using the latest version of Chrome. As you say, as long as you're using Chrome (and not other built-in browsers) it should work on Android.
I can test it in BrowserStack all the way back to Android 4.3 on a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. I suspected as much, but it does indeed seem to be that as long as you're using a supported browser (this was a very recent version of Chrome) then it will work fine:

1539161278098.png
 

Chris D

XenForo developer
Staff member
does it mean you are working on some sort of official portal add-on?
Not at all, it just means we're making a version of our existing site (which runs on XF 1.0) in the XF 2.1 code base. It is a XenForo add-on, technically, but those custom aspects are mostly the customer/download/license system and ticket system. And, no, we're not making any of those bits available either ;) It's all built very bespoke to our requirements.
 

doublespaces

Well-known member
Great news!

Android guy here but we need iPhone support, I hear they are the biggest culprits of not knowing how to use email so notifications are critical ;)

With full disclosure, this is my three letter @me.com email I got with the iPhone 3G. It receives an ungodly amount of spam and has been in this state for a long time:

1539162145353.png


Hopefully a reputable developer picks up the baton for the iPhone part.
 
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doublespaces

Well-known member
Is there a way to view push notification statistics? Subscription statuses? Subscription reminders or retention features?


I'm thinking some of this can come with an addon, just curious what sort of controls would come in the vanilla version.
 

The Dark Wizard

Well-known member
I can test it in BrowserStack all the way back to Android 4.3 on a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. I suspected as much, but it does indeed seem to be that as long as you're using a supported browser (this was a very recent version of Chrome) then it will work fine:

View attachment 185079
I haven’t been on android in ages but I noticed the first post example doesn’t have a share icon but your example of an older phone does.

How does it look in Android P with the latest version of chrome?
 

Chris D

XenForo developer
Staff member
I haven’t been on android in ages but I noticed the first post example doesn’t have a share icon but your example of an older phone does.
The "share icon" you mention is the user's avatar in the example in the first post.

In the recent example I shared, the user doesn't have an avatar so it falls back to the default metadata logo URL style property.
 

Chris D

XenForo developer
Staff member
The other customisable aspect is the "bell" icon you can see in both examples.

This actually comes from a new style property. This has to be an image which is single color/alpha color image (essentially a single color + transparency) and we default that to a bell icon, though you can customise it to your own logo if you have an icon that meets that criteria.
 

The Dark Wizard

Well-known member
The "share icon" you mention is the user's avatar in the example in the first post.

In the recent example I shared, the user doesn't have an avatar so it falls back to the default metadata logo URL style property.
The other customisable aspect is the "bell" icon you can see in both examples.

This actually comes from a new style property. This has to be an image which is single color/alpha color image (essentially a single color + transparency) and we default that to a bell icon, though you can customise it to your own logo if you have an icon that meets that criteria.

Thanks. So when a user has an avatar, it uses that and if not it falls back to the Metalogo?

That’s useful and neat.
 

RobinHood

Well-known member
Great news!

Android guy here but we need iPhone support, I hear they are the biggest culprits of not knowing how to use email so notifications are critical ;)

With full disclosure, this is my three letter @me.com email I got with the iPhone 3G. It receives an ungodly amount of spam and has been in this state for a long time:

View attachment 185080

Hopefully a reputable developer picks up the baton for the iPhone part.

Yeah, it's a shame we can't whitelist email notifications from certain domains on the iPhone. Then site emails could turn into push notifications.
 

TimFL

Member
Yeah, it's a shame we can't whitelist email notifications from certain domains on the iPhone. Then site emails could turn into push notifications.
Well you can control push notifications on a per mail account basis. Could technically make a new mail to use as a push notifications aggregator.
 
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