Elliott C. Back: Internet & Technology

Why Facebook delays its email notifications

Posted in Facebook by Elliott Back on June 5th, 2010.

Have you ever been logged into Facebook and gotten an instant notification “hey, someone commented on your post” and waited an hour later to get the email version of that notification? Did you ever wonder why Facebook’s system seem out of sync with email? I’ve experienced this on occasion, and recently it got me thinking.

If you were Facebook, and trying to drive eyeballs to your site, why would you even do email notifications at all? If people realized that Facebook itself was a better source of data for realtime Facebook updates than the email notifications, it would be more likely that people would visit the site to keep up to date. And visitors to the site would most likely drive other activity and engagement. So, by degrading email notifications functionality, Facebook could transition people into higher engagement of the website.

A clever way to do it undetectably (except by, say, Google) would be to periodically degrade email notifications randomly. It’s easy to blame it on “system failures.” Since users are not all affected at the same time, but only a portion of users experience a portion of delayed email, gradually the userbase would be conditioned to mistrust Facebook’s email notifications, and trust the website more.

However, their email notifications are pretty good. Here’s the last five of mine, they line up perfectly:

I don’t have the data right now to demonstrate anything sinister. and Facebook’s email notifications do appear to generally arrive in a timely fashion. But if your experience has been otherwise, leave a comment and kick off this conspiracy theory.

This entry was posted on Saturday, June 5th, 2010 at 6:44 pm and is tagged with . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback.

6 Responses to “Why Facebook delays its email notifications”

  1. melchior says:

    this is old, but it is still a problem. and annoying.

  2. Ahmed Fahim says:

    Also, if facebook was sending email notifications immediately, you would lose the ability to delete your posts/friend requests without anyone knowing about that. By delaying email notifications, and in case you cancelled your request or deleted your post/comment, no one would get notified.

  3. tenny says:

    I’ve noticed that when i receive an email notification and log in to facebook, the message would’ve been delivered between 15 and 18 minutes earlier and not less than than 5 minutes. i think the delay is deliberate, if you want instant notifications then it seems you have to be online on their site.

  4. Lars says:

    Well, my Facebook notifications seem to have gone missing completely. I thought my friends had all gone quiet all of a sudden, but when I opened Facebook, activity was normal. My notification settings look normal, too – address correct, all relevant boxes ticked. But no mails arrive. Weird.

  5. I noticed the same probleme on my account, but not everytime, only on some days. So I think that the notification function has not the first priority on facebook. If the servers of facebook are busy with other things, than facebook sends the notification emails later, when the servers aren’t busy anymore.

  6. Wendy says:

    Actually, first of all, I think they delay the email notification for the reason that some people might write some comment or post sth on other ppl’s wall, but then they realize they want to modify or delete it. It would suck if that msg has already gone to the notification. That leaves no space for change! Additionally, facebook is considerate but not smart enuf; Renren has better way: they send u email notification but they don’t tell you what ppl wrote on the wall, u have to click the link and visit the website to see it!
    Renren is better in general!

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