While there were several exciting announcements during the return of Facebook’s F8 developer conference yesterday (like the aforementioned Facebook Audience Network), the universally-applicable Facebook App Links could just be the creme de la creme.
Why? Because, even though the idea nor technology are new, the simple fact is that, until now, we have not had a great solution to the issue of deep-linking apps within iOS, Android, or Windows Mobile devices.
Face it– even though mobile use has continued to increase year over year, much of what we do on our smartphones is tedious. For example, if you’re served a Groupon ad on Facebook, and want to check out the offer further, even if you have the Groupon app on your phone, a Facebook-hosted mobile browser will open in-app, which, oddly enough, often requires you to log-in to Facebook to connect your Groupon account (even though you’re currently in the Facebook app, and therefore logged in, and, ugh…).
Facebook App Links takes care of that redundancy for you. Using the App Links code, developers can link to other apps using specified meta tags, so when a link is clicked, that app opens instead of a mobile browser. In theory, developers would also be able to use this technology to direct users to the appropriate app store per device to download the third-party app if they have not already (which potentially raises the possibility of some sort of app-referral marketing, maybe?).
The difference between Facebook App Links and other third-party companies (like Deeplink.me) is that Facebook is looking to establish universal standards for all app developers– not solutions that are accepted by some, but not by others. And the social network is already off to a good start, teaming with platforms such as Spotify, Venmo, Pinterest, Hulu, and several others from the start.
Not only can App Links be seen as good for mobile users, but for mobile marketing as well. Think about it– if apps themselves can deep link to other apps, so, potentially, can ads. As we saw with Google’s AdWords product updates last week, re-engagement app marketing will become a focal-point in the coming months, and Facebook App Links helps to deliver a seamless, universally-accepted regiment for implementing such advertising.
While there’s no official support from Apple, Android, or Windows for Facebook App Links just yet, that backing may not be actually necessary for this project to succeed. If enough big-time developers jump on board, the OS companies don’t actually need to “officially” support the technology for it to become effective.
And that’s good for not only Facebook, but honestly, good for all of us.