What a difference the little things make.
Before today, I hadn’t found much use for Google Chrome’s pinned tabs, which you can stick to the side of the screen by left clicking any tab and selecting “pin tab” from the drop-down menu. They’d be great for social and message-based Websites that you want to leave open all the time, but without the ability to show dynamic activity, such as unread messages in Gmail, pinned tabs don’t live up to their potential.
A new feature in Gmail Labs called “Unread message icon” addresses that issue for Google’s mail service, at least. Activating the feature adds a count of unread messages to Gmail’s pinned tab favicon, so you no longer have to switch tabs to see how many e-mails are waiting. With this information available at a glance, I may no longer have to confine Gmail to its own browser window.
But why stop there? Google should now extend pinned tab notifications to third-parties. Make it a feature of the Chrome Web Store, so TweetDeck’s app can let you know when someone’s pinged you on Twitter, or so chat apps can tell you exactly how many messages are waiting. Heck, add notifications to the Chrome home screen, so those web app icons don’t seem so much like glorified bookmarks. (A bunch of apps with numeric badges on them would, after all, look a bit like the iOS home screen.)
For now, an extension called Favicon Alerts provides a nice workaround: It appends message counts to pinned tabs for any website that displays this kind of information in the title bar.