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.

While we await more information from the Google Chrome team on the removal of Physical Web, here is a full update on what this means for us proximity marketers.

Eddystone, Physical Web, and Nearby Notifications
The working dynamics

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 – Our provider 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 Digital Social Retail 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.

Reasons why this update will have almost no effect on Businesses

  •  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.
  •  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  
  1. You can manually enter a title and description relevant to your campaign
  2. App intents are supported, which means your users can click notifications and open an app up directly
  3. Nearby has introduced targeting rules, which allows marketers to design targeted marketing campaigns such as – “Send notifications on weekdays from 9am5pm
  4. Nearby allows multiple notifications from a single beacon
  5. 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.
  • 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.