Welcome to the Azure Notification Hubs blog.
What is Azure Notification Hubs?
Azure Notification Hubs is a push notifications routing service that lets you send millions of push notifications at once. As a developer, you can send push notifications to your app on multiple platforms without worrying about the complexity of the underlying platform. Essentially, it is PaaS (Platform as a Service) for push notifications. Why on earth would you care about “PaaS for push notifications”? Let’s break it down.
Why Push Notifications?
If you develop or use consumer apps, you use push notifications. Push notifications is a form of app-to-user communication where app users are notified of certain information. You see these, typically, as pop-ups or dialogue boxes. On receipt of the notification, you can choose to view or dismiss the message. When you choose to view the notification on a mobile device, it opens up the app communicating the notification.
Push notifications are vital for consumer apps to increase app engagement and usage. In addition, enterprise apps use push notifications to communicate up-to-date business information. Push notifications are the best way to reach customers because, firstly, they are energy-efficient for mobile devices. Secondly, push notifications are flexible for the notifications senders, and available when corresponding applications are not active.
Why Azure Notification Hubs (ANH)?
When you are developing an app, chances are that you want notifications to just work. You want to invest resources and figure out how best to engage customers. What you dont want to spend time on, is figuring out notification quirks of each platform you have customers on. Notification Hubs abstracts the platform specific complexity from you. Because ANH is a multi-platform, scaled-out push notification infrastructure, you can simplify your app backend and reduce push-related coding.
With ANH, devices are merely responsible for registering their PNS handles with a hub. Your app backend responsibility is limited to sending messages to users or interest groups. As a result, you can forget about platform specific code and leave the maintenance of the platform specific logic to us. Moreover, you can also delegate basics, like refreshing your device token at every app launch, to ANH.
Scalability and maintainability:
The more popular your app, the harder it gets to scale and maintain the infrastructure needed to support millions of push notifications. Without ANH, reaching millions of your customers translates to a million calls to the Platform Notification Services (PNS). However, through Notificaiton Hubs, you can easily broadcast your message through ANH with a single call.
So now we know how to reach all our customers. How about when you want to send notifications to a subset of your customers? As an example, if you are a sports app and want to send game reminders to Red Sox and Cardinal fans in Boston. You can easily do so using “Tags”, a functionality ANH provides, to help you tag devices and group them into audiences. Here is a visualization from our docs on how to use tags in this scenario:
Most importantly, The more your team can focus on your app versus the cross platform notifications logic, the more cost effective it is for you!
Why do we need this blog?
As a service, ANH has been around for years, so why now do we want to blog about concerns around push notifications? For one, our blogging history has been fairly scattered! We blogged on the Azure blog, we blogged on the App Center page, and several folks on our team have their own blogs. We want to consolidate all stuff ANH.
Secondly, we are at an exciting crossroads in our ANH adventure. We are looking forward to building and sharing all sorts of new and exciting features with you. We want one place to carry on that service-customer dialogue. That is just what this blog is meant to be. A place for us to share tips and tricks of using ANH, and learn from you about your challenges and ideas.
We have gathered your feedback during Build, Ignite and other forums through 2020 and before. From these conversations, we learned your biggest pain points and asks. We are excited to share that our new SDKs for Android and iOS solve some of your biggest concerns in those areas. As the team that is also behind much loved App Center Push (which is being sunset) features, we want to provide you the same simplicity and ease of use in ANH. In addition, we are also focused on providing you the rich feature set you expect from a world class Azure service.
Our new SDKs (Android and iOS) are easy to use and, along with our server side SDKs and REST APIs, give you a lot of flexibility on including push notifications in your app across platforms. In a series of blogs from our very talented team, we would like to help get you started on using our SDKs, building platform agnostic web apps and much more! Our official docs live here, keep your sight on this blog for posts from the team. And always, please feel free to reach out to us and let us know what you would like to see here.