Physical Web

It’s impossible to talk about Eddystone and not mention Physical Web. It’s an idea that you should be able to just walk up to a smart object or place, and be able to immediately interact with it or more learn about it via a web page—without the need for any app.

Most commonly, this is achieved by having a BLE beacon broadcast an Eddystone-URL packet, with a URL encoded directly in it. Apps, devices, and services can then detect the Eddystone-URL packet, and direct the user to the appropriate web page.

Did you know: There are other ways to broadcast URLs in the vicinity that the Physical Web project has experimented with: mDNS, Wi-Fi Direct, SSDP.

There’s nothing in the Physical Web’s mission statement that would restrict it to BLE and Eddystone-URL. This simply turned out to be the most practical/popular way to broadcast a URL to nearby devices.

Apps and services with Physical Web support

Everyone is free to build their own Physical Web service/browser. There’ve also been some notable implementations over the years, although most of them are now discontinued:

[possibly discontinued] Samsung Internet CloseBy

Read more about it in Bringing the real world to your browser with CloseBy and on Samsung Internet’s Dev Hub: CloseBy - Samsung Internet Dev Hub. (UPDATE: this now leads to a 404 page, hinting that CloseBy may also have been discontinued)

[discontinued] Google Chrome

Physical Web’s first largest adopter was actually Google Chrome on iOS and Android. Since then, Google transitioned most of its implementation to Nearby Notifications. You can read more about it in the Update on Physical Web features in Chrome post on the physical-web-discuss group.

[discontinued] Nearby Notifications

Nearby Notifications was a way to surface links to apps and web-sites as low-priority notifications shown directly in the Android’s notification drawer. It has since been discontinued. Read more in Google’s Discontinuing support for Android Nearby Notifications blog post.