Chrome removes Physical Web support on iOS and Android
Last Updated:  April 24, 2019
Is Physical Web support temporarily suppressed or gone forever?
What just happened with the latest Chrome update?
We noticed today that in the latest update of the Google Chrome app on iOS and Android support for the Physical Web has been removed.
It is too early to say whether Google has temporarily suppressed it or the team has better substitutes coming up in the future. Back in October 2016, Google did a similar thing with Nearby notifications. A Google employee took to Google Groups to announce that the Nearby notifications would be temporarily suppressed in the upcoming release of Google Play Services, as they were working on improvements.
Eddystone is an open communication protocol which was developed by Google with Android users in mind. Beacons that support the Eddystone protocol broadcast a URL that can be viewed by anyone with a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone whether they have an app installed or not.
Services on the device such as Google Chrome or Nearby Notifications scan for and display these Eddystone URLs after passing them through a proxy.
Physical Web notifications – Beaconstac broadcasts an Eddystone URL packet with a link you’ve set up. When a smartphone is in the range of an Eddystone beacon, the Physical Web compatible browser (Google Chrome) scans and detects the packet and the link you’ve set is displayed.
Nearby Notifications – Nearby is a Google proprietary solution for Android smartphones that allows users to discover nearby devices and send relevant information without an app. When Beaconstac broadcasts an Eddystone URL packet with the link you’ve set up, the Nearby service in Android phones scans and detects the packet just like Chrome does.
Does Physical Web affect ‘Nearby Notifications’?
Not at all! Nearby services and Physical Web are independent channels through which marketers and business owners push Eddystone URLs.
Does Physical Web affect ‘Eddystone’?
No, it doesn’t. Eddystone is the protocol that the beacons use to send notifications to smartphones that have Bluetooth ON. With the current update, Chrome will not be capable of scanning these Eddystone notifications, but this does not hinder Nearby services from scanning and detecting Eddystone notifications.
Does this have any impact on Android users?
No, it doesn’t. Android users still get the beacon notifications via Google’s inbuilt service “Nearby”. These are the Eddystone URLs. According to Michal Mocney, tech lead on the Physical Web project in Google, Physical Web is not coming back to iOS devices and the way it works on Android might also change a bit.
Reasons why this update will have almost no effect on Businesses
1. A very small percent of iOS users have Chrome installed
This update affects only users who have an iOS device AND have Google Chrome installed on it. It is no secret that majority of the iOS users use Safari and not Chrome. In a recent study by U.S. Digital Analytics Program, we see a massive dominance of Safari over Chrome on iOS devices.
Data via U.S. Digital Analytics Program
2. Nearby notifications are more powerful than Physical web notifications
Google Nearby has been constantly growing in popularity since its advent in June 2016 because it provides a compelling channel for ordinary businesses to reach new customers and add value to their apps and platforms. Here’s why Nearby is more powerful than Physical Web –
You can manually enter a title and description relevant to your campaign
App intents are supported, which means your users can click notifications and open an app up directly
Nearby has introduced targeting rules, which allows marketers to design targeted marketing campaigns such as – “Send notifications on weekdays from 9am – 5pm”
Nearby allows multiple notifications from a single beacon
Apps that use the Nearby API, send telemetry information to the Google beacon platform where you can monitor the health of your beacons. This report contains the battery level, count of frames that the beacon has transmitted, length of time the beacon has been active, beacon temperature and much more.
3. Elimination of duplicate notifications on Android phones
Physical Web notifications are programmed to be low-priority notifications, whereas Nearby notifications are active notifications. Because of this, Android users typically receive duplicate notifications leading to a poor user experience.
Alternatives for running beacon campaigns on iOS devices
To run a beacon-based proximity marketing campaign without an app, you could leverage high-performing and innovative third-party apps. These apps continuously scan for Eddystone URLs and display the notifications as soon as they detect an Eddystone URL.
[UPDATE FEB 2018]
Beaconstac has developed an app for this purpose – “Nearbee”. This app scans for Nearby notifications and displays the notification on the iOS device. Here’s how it is superior to any other third party app –
Add an app intent to the campaign
It allows notifications to be sent at a specific time of the day, or days of a week
The app is designed to run and scan quietly in the background. This means users get the notification even when the device is locked
With the app, you can send telemetry information to the Google beacon platform where you can monitor the health of beacons
Send multiple notifications from a single beacon
Watch this space for updates as we learn more about the Physical Web and Chrome.
For any queries or discussions about this, feel free to reach out to [email protected]
If you are looking to get started on a short pilot, head to our Beaconstac store page and invest in a set of beacons and our Premium subscription plan. You can have the campaigns up and running in less than 15 mins!