How to send push notifications at scale

by | Digital Technology

Sending push notifications at scale, especially in scenarios like a group chat with 100+ members where real-time updates are crucial, requires optimizing both your infrastructure and the way you use Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM). Here are some strategies to improve performance and ensure timely delivery of notifications:

1. Batch Requests

When sending notifications to a large number of users, batching requests can significantly reduce the number of HTTP requests made to FCM. FCM supports sending a batch of messages in a single request. Instead of sending a request per user, group messages into batches. This is more efficient and can reduce the delay caused by the overhead of multiple HTTP requests.

2. Use Multicast Messaging

For scenarios like group chats, multicast messaging can be particularly useful. With FCM, you can send a message to up to 500 recipients in one go by specifying their registration tokens in the request. This is similar to batching but is specifically designed for sending the same message to multiple users.

3. Optimize Payload Size

The size of your notification payload can affect delivery speed. Keep your messages as small as possible to ensure quick processing and delivery. FCM allows a maximum payload of 4KB for notification messages. Removing unnecessary data from the payload can help in faster delivery.

4. Prioritize Messages

FCM allows you to set the priority of messages. For critical notifications that need immediate delivery, use high priority. FCM treats high-priority notifications differently, attempting to deliver them immediately, even if it means waking up a sleeping device. However, use this feature judiciously to avoid draining users’ battery life unnecessarily.

5. Handle Token Updates and Errors Gracefully

Ensure your application correctly handles token refresh events and updates the server with the new tokens. Similarly, handle error responses from FCM properly. If you receive a failure response for a message, inspect the error and take appropriate action, such as retrying with exponential backoff if the error is transient.

6. Implement Efficient Server Architecture

On the server side, ensure your infrastructure can handle high loads, especially when sending notifications to a large number of users simultaneously. This might involve scaling your servers, optimizing database queries, and implementing efficient job queuing mechanisms.

7. Use Topics or Condition-based Messaging

For sending notifications to groups, consider using FCM topics. Each user subscribes to a topic (e.g., a group chat), and you can send a message to all subscribers of that topic with a single request. This is efficient for scenarios where the group membership is dynamic or when you need to send frequent updates to the same set of users.

8. Monitor and Optimize

Utilize FCM’s diagnostics tools to monitor the performance of your notifications. This can help identify bottlenecks or issues affecting delivery speeds. Regular monitoring and optimization based on findings can significantly improve performance.


Efficiently sending push notifications at scale involves a combination of optimizing message payloads, batching requests, prioritizing messages appropriately, and ensuring your server infrastructure can handle the load. Also, leveraging FCM features like multicast messaging, topic subscriptions, and condition-based messaging can help in managing large-scale notifications effectively. Continuously monitor the performance and adjust your strategies as needed to ensure timely delivery of notifications.

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