Google announced on its Android Developers' Blog today that it is going to be ending support for Nearby Notifications on December 6, 2018. The reason behind Google ending Nearby Notifications is due to the amount of spam that it is seeing with these notifications. It was originally meant to be a way for users to find things to do nearby – including telling people about free WiFi, power up stations to recharge your phone, museum information and such – but it turns out that marketers were using these notifications to spam people. So, three years after launching Nearby Notifications, Google is going to sunset them before the end of the year. Joining a number of other products from Google that have recently been announced as being sunsetted – including Google+, and YouTube Gaming.
For Android users, this doesn't mean much, other than the fact that you will no longer be receiving Nearby Notifications. Nothing else will change on the user-end which is definitely a good thing. For developers, this means that Google will stop delivering both Eddystone and Physical Web beacon notifications. Google will still allow developers to have access to the beacon dashboard and developers can still deliver proximity based experiences similar to Nearby Notifications using their own app, using the Proximity Beacons API. So developers will still be able to send these notifications, but only within their app, so that should stop the spam that users are experiencing with Nearby Notifications. And that's what Google is really looking to eliminate here.
Google is also saying that it has two related APIs that developers can still use to build device-to-device connectivity experiences. That includes the Nearby Messages and Connections API, as well as Fast Pair which is used for device discovery and pairing. The Fast Pair API is what is used to show you that there is a device nearby that needs to be set up. This typically works with Chromecast, Android TV, Wear OS and other Android devices. It makes it much easier to find the device and get it setup as well. Google says in its blog post that it is going to continue to invest in these APIs and support products using those technologies. It also wanted to thank all of the developers that utilized nearby notifications and helped to improve it over the years, though it looks like there wasn't enough improvement here to keep it running effectively. Good thing is, developers still have some alternatives to Nearby Notifications that it can use. Remember that Nearby Notifications is going to be shut down on December 6, 2018. Of course you can still go through and disable them now.
Background: Nearby Notifications were announced back in 2015. It was originally meant to be a way for users to get notified about things going on around where they are. This would only happen when you would venture near a location that has beacons. It was originally supposed to be used to send you relevant information. Say you drive past a store that has beacons, it could send you a notification telling you what the store sells and also what the hours are, which is actually helpful. But instead, these notifications were mostly ads. Where stores and restaurants would send you notifications about stores that it is having currently. It was a good way for stores and such to market to customers that are driving or walking by the store, but it was really just a bunch of spam that users really did not want.
Since the Nearby Notifications were sending out so much spam to users, many were searching for ways to disable Nearby Notifications, because of all of the spam. Which made sense, as they were basically ads popping up in their notification shade, which is not something that a lot of people actually want on their smartphones, and who could blame them really. But marketers were really excited about being able to send ads directly to users – and not have to pay for ads through Adsense – and target users based on their location. Which in theory, is a good thing for marketers, but users don't want to see all of these ads in their notification shade.
Impact: This is just the latest product from Google to be shut down this year. Google has announced that it is shutting down Inbox, Google+, YouTube Gaming and now Nearby Notifications. Though Nearby Notifications is actually just a feature and not a full-blown product from Google, it does still make the list. Google does, from time-to-time, go on a spring cleaning spree to shut down some of its services and products that aren't doing well or people just aren't using. Though Google+ and Nearby Notifications fall into a slightly different camp. Google decided to end Google+ due to a security bug that exposed a ton of information about its users. So instead of fixing the bug, it decided to just shut down the platform. It's quite similar to what's going on with Nearby Notifications. Instead of clamping down on the spammers, and only allowing useful information to be sent in those notifications, Google is instead eliminating them altogether. Though it likely won't mean much for many users out there, seeing as there were very little Nearby Notifications appearing that were actually useful and not spam.
Nearby Notifications were a pretty cool feature for Google to announce and have as part of Android, but ultimately it fell victim to spammers, and that happens all to much these days. Spammers are always looking for ways to spam people, and get them to go to their website and such. Unfortunately, that usually ruins a bunch of really cool features that other people may actually want to use (or even products, we saw spammers basically take over Google+ in the past year or two). It's unfortunate, but that is the way that things work right now. Hopefully Google and other companies are able to put a stop to this rather soon, before it has to shut down more features that people actually use, due to the spammers taking it over.