User Notifications

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The upstream messaging (device-to-cloud) feature described in this document is part of the Google Play services platform. Upstream messaging is available through the GoogleCloudMessaging APIs. To use upstream messaging and the new streamlined registration process, you must set up the Google Play services SDK.

What are User Notifications?

Third party servers can send a single message to multiple instance of an app running on devices owned by a single user. This feature is called user notifications. User notifications make it possible for every app instance that a user owns to reflect the latest messaging state. For example:

  • If a message has been handled on one device, the GCM message on the other devices are dismissed. For example, if a user has handled a calendar notification on one device, the notification will go away on the user's other devices.
  • If a message has not been delivered yet to a device and but it has been handled, the GCM server removes it from the unsent queue for the other devices.
  • Likewise, a device can send messages to the notification_key, which is the token that GCM uses to fan out notifications to all devices whose registration IDs are associated with the key.

The way this works is that during registration, the 3rd-party server requests a notification_key. The notification_key maps a particular user to all of the user's associated registration IDs (a regID represents a particular Android application running on a particular device). Then instead of sending one message to one regID at a time, the 3rd-party server can send a message to to the notification_key, which then sends the message to all of the user's regIDs.

Note: A notification dismissal message is like any other upstream message, meaning that it will be delivered to the other devices that belong to the specified notification_key. You should design your app to handle cases where the app receives a dismissal message, but has not yet displayed the notification that is being dismissed. You can solve this by caching the dismissal and then reconciling it with the corresponding notification.

You can use this feature with either the new GCM Cloud Connection Server (CCS), or the older GCM HTTP server.


The examples in this section show you how to perform generate/add/remove operations, and how to send upstream messages. For generate/add/remove operations, the message body is JSON.

Request format

To send a message, the application server issues a POST request to

Here is the HTTP request header you should use for all create/add/remove operations:

content-type: "application/json"
Header : "project_id": <projectID>
Header: "Authorization", "key=API_KEY"

Generate a notification key

This example shows how to create a new notification_key for a notification_key_name called appUser-Chris. The notification_key_name is a name or identifier (can be a username for a 3rd-party app) that is unique to a given user. It is used by third parties to group together registration IDs for a single user. Note that notification_key_name and notification_key are unique to a group of registration IDs. It is also important that notification_key_name be uniquely named per app in case you have multiple apps for the same project ID. This ensures that notifications only go to the intended target app.

A create operation returns a token (notification_key). Third parties must save this token (as well as its mapping to the notification_key_name) to use in subsequent operations:

   "operation": "create",
   "notification_key_name": "appUser-Chris",
   "registration_ids": ["4", "8", "15", "16", "23", "42"]

Add registration IDs

This example shows how to add registration IDs for a given notification key. The maximum number of members allowed for a notification_key is 10.

Note that the notification_key_name is not strictly required for adding/removing regIDs. But including it protects you against accidentally using the incorrect notification_key.

   "operation": "add",
   "notification_key_name": "appUser-Chris",
   "notification_key": "aUniqueKey"
   "registration_ids": ["4", "8", "15", "16", "23", "42"]

Remove registration IDs

This example shows how to remove registration IDs for a given notification key:

   "operation": "remove",
   "notification_key_name": "appUser-Chris",
   "notification_key": "aUniqueKey"
   "registration_ids": ["4", "8", "15", "16", "23", "42"]

Send upstream messages

To send an upstream (device-to-cloud) message, you must use the GoogleCloudMessaging API. Specifying a notification_key as the target for an upstream message allows a user on one device to send a message to other devices in the notification group—for example, to dismiss a notification. Here is an example that shows targeting a notification_key:

GoogleCloudMessaging gcm = GoogleCloudMessaging.get(context);
AtomicInteger msgId = new AtomicInteger();
String id = Integer.toString(msgId.incrementAndGet());
Bundle data = new Bundle();
data.putString("hello", "world");

gcm.send(to, id, data);

This call generates the necessary XMPP stanza for sending the message. The Bundle data consists of a key-value pair.

For a complete example, see Getting Started.

Response formats

This section shows examples of the responses that can be returned for notification key operations.

Response for create/add/remove operations

When you make a request to create a notification_key or to add/remove its the wayregIDs, a successful response always returns the notification_key. This is the notification_key you will use for sending messages:

HTTP status: 200
    "notification_key": "aUniqueKey",   // to be used for sending
Response for send operations

For a send operation that has a notification_key as its target, the possible responses are success, partial success, and failure.

Here is an example of "success"—the notification_key has 2 regIDs associated with it, and the message was successfully sent to both of them:

  "success": 2,
  "failure": 0

Here is an example of "partial success"—the notification_key has 3 regIDs associated with it. The message was successfully send to 1 of the regIDs, but not to the other 2. The response message lists the regIDs that failed to receive the message:


In the case of failure, the response has HTTP code 503 and no JSON. When a message fails to be delivered to one or more of the regIDs associated with a notification_key, the 3rd-party server should retry.