Shoulder Tap Internals in Redstone 3 Build 16184

Hidden inside Windows 10 “Redstone 3” build 16184 are Shoulder Taps, a My People feature that lets you send payloads of loud, animated fun to your contacts. MSN Messenger fans: rejoice! Winks are back and are better than ever.

OK, that’s a matter of perspective.

Like Winks from 12 years ago, Shoulder Taps are designed to be short animations that play on the screen of the person you’re socializing with. Unlike Winks, however, these animations break out of their traditional app boundaries and play right on the desktop. But without any supportive inbox apps to play with, I couldn’t dig into how Shoulder Taps are selected and sent. Instead, I enabled the feature and wrote some of my own tooling to demonstrate how Shoulder Taps look and work at the receiving end.

So, let’s jump right in.

A Shoulder Tap is just a fancy (temporary) name for a specialized type of Toast Notification. Apps create these notifications by feeding some Windows.UI.Notifications APIs a bit of XML that looks like this:

<toast hint-people="mailto:[email protected]">
    <binding template="ToastGeneric" experienceType="shoulderTap">
      <image src="..."></image>
    <binding template="ToastGeneric">
      <image src="..."></image>
      <text>Hello World</text>

Developers that normally work in this space will recognize the standard toast notification elements. But there are a few added twists.

First, the <toast> element has a new @hint-people attribute that acts as a contact selector. Apps must target a contact using an email (mailto:), telephone (tel:), or unique identifier (remoteid:).

Next, multiple binding elements are required. One binding must be tied to the Shoulder Tap experience via the new @experienceType attribute. And another should describe a vanilla notification that will be seen if the person isn’t pinned to the Windows Taskbar. (It may also show this notification in Action Center, though didn’t always work in my testing. It could be a bug.)

The meat of the Shoulder Tap is contained within its specialized binding. It supports an <image> element with its @src attribute value pointed to a web resource (https://…) or application-relative URI (e.g. ms-appx://). Windows downloads these images (if not already cached locally) and displays them in a transparent 160 x 160 square window on the desktop, resizing the image only if the scale factor isn’t set to 100%.

The expected standard web image formats work here – animated or static GIFs, JPEGs, and PNGs. Other formats such as WebP, MPEG-4, and FLV do not load (though are still oddly downloaded and cached). Alternatively, apps can use the @spritesheet-src, @spritesheet-fps, and @spritesheet-height attributes to feed in a sprite sheet, though I don’t understand why anyone would, given the additional complexities in doing so. (I suspect these attributes were simply added as a hack to quickly support Skype’s trove of sprite sheet-based emoticons.)

And lastly, there is no <audio> element in this toast type. Shoulder Taps are always accompanied by a loud and obnoxious ring that’s built into My People. There’s no escape from this, yet.


So those are Shoudler Taps. What do you think?

As “Redstone 3” work continues over the next few months, we will undoubtedly see this feature evolve. I’ll keep you updated as that happens, so stay tuned.

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Conversation 36 comments

  • Shmuelie

    Premium Member
    01 May, 2017 - 12:51 pm

    <p>How many bets the dev who built this misses WLM?</p>

  • EugB

    01 May, 2017 - 1:02 pm

    <p>How long before this is a "security hole" that needs patching?</p>

  • Oasis

    Premium Member
    01 May, 2017 - 1:06 pm

    <p>How about finish the browser first?</p>

    • TheJoeFin

      Premium Member
      01 May, 2017 - 2:00 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#101426"><em>In reply to Oasis:</em></a></blockquote><p>I missed the memo where they merged the Skype and Edge teams</p>

  • skane2600

    01 May, 2017 - 1:32 pm

    <p>Finally we'll have a modern version of the scrolling, flashing text of the early days of the web.</p>

  • thomaswert

    01 May, 2017 - 1:38 pm

    <p>Spamming others with winks was fun in MSN Messenger. But that was 12 years ago and I am not sure if we need such a function built into the OS now. :/</p>

  • TheJoeFin

    Premium Member
    01 May, 2017 - 2:00 pm

    <p>This is a welcome feature, assuming it respects Quiet Hours and can be disabled. </p>

  • lwetzel

    Premium Member
    01 May, 2017 - 2:17 pm


  • Chris_Kez

    Premium Member
    01 May, 2017 - 2:30 pm

    <p>Reminds me of the buzz/nudge feature in AIM that you could use to shake a person's screen. I could use that at work now with Hangouts; sometimes colleagues will go a long while before they realize there's a new message.</p>

  • rameshthanikodi

    01 May, 2017 - 2:30 pm

    <p>That sound is annoying and completely alien. But other than that, this feature seems cool. Realistically though, no one is going to use this feature, and only Microsoft's stuff (Skype) is will probably even support this feature. The golden age of open messaging features died a long time ago, precipitated by the rise of closed mobile solutions like WhatsApp, and by Microsoft itself killing Live Messenger. Now it's all about Facebook making money off Stickers or something. If the feature doesn't work on mobile as well, they aren't going to invest in it.</p><p>TL;DR – cool feature, but disconnected from the reality of how apps and platforms work today.</p>

  • nightmare99

    01 May, 2017 - 2:36 pm

    <p>Aww hell no . . .</p>

  • Wolf

    Premium Member
    01 May, 2017 - 2:54 pm

    <p>It was a stupid idea then … it's still a stupid idea now. What a waste of good developers' time. :(</p>

  • RonH

    Premium Member
    01 May, 2017 - 3:53 pm

    <p>the kids are going to love it</p>

  • Bats

    01 May, 2017 - 4:07 pm

    <p>This feature would be cool is it actually made me 12 years younger.</p>

  • navarac

    01 May, 2017 - 4:19 pm

    <p>More crap, then.</p>

  • winlonghorn

    01 May, 2017 - 4:23 pm

    <p>Looks interesting, but I can see it getting annoying very quickly! lol. It would drive me crazy to have those things pop up on my screen when I am working on my code.</p>

  • Bart

    Premium Member
    01 May, 2017 - 5:08 pm

    <p>Seriously, this will stop Brad and Paul from doing ANY work</p><p><br></p><p>First Ring Daily be like: Wink</p>

  • Salvador Jesús Romero Castellano

    01 May, 2017 - 7:05 pm

    <p>So, people centric (and that is, not app centric) notifications. Makes sense. Is the people hub back?</p><p>Good job, by the way, Rafael!</p>

  • chrisrut

    Premium Member
    01 May, 2017 - 11:19 pm

    <p>Nicely explained, and I find the notion horrific…</p>

  • matsan

    Premium Member
    02 May, 2017 - 1:35 am

    <p>Queue Clippy!</p>

  • Lewk

    Premium Member
    02 May, 2017 - 1:52 am

    <p>Good grief, just shoot me now and be done with it. I don't want to live on this planet anymore.</p>

  • Care

    Premium Member
    02 May, 2017 - 2:32 am

    <p>I haven't seen Guybrush Threepwood in quite some time.</p>

    • Rafael Rivera

      Premium Member
      02 May, 2017 - 2:45 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#106660">In reply to Care:</a></em></blockquote><p>"Oh yeah? I am rubber you are glue"</p>

  • Narg

    02 May, 2017 - 7:57 am

    <p>Face it folks, "fun" sells computers. This is fun (for most, unless you are a glass 1/2 empty type…)</p>

  • dfeifer

    Premium Member
    02 May, 2017 - 11:32 am

    <p>shame it only works with Microsoft accounts. Would love to set this up on non ms office machines on the factory floor. (minus the animations of course) currently I have a utility server that is dedicated to instant messaging for.. 13 people and it would be nice to use something a little more built in that didn't require external resources. </p>

  • YouWereWarned

    02 May, 2017 - 8:22 pm

    <p>They are going to crush the 4-8 year old market with this. So for those wondering why basic features are still lacking in the important Windows apps, this is where the programmers have been playing. Sounds like romper-room.</p>

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    04 October, 2017 - 9:38 pm

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