Facebook To Open App Store
Would you like a potential user base of 425 million for your application? Facebook thinks you might, and to that end has announced its own App Center, a platform for selling its apps and acting as a conduit for other mobile apps.
This App Center, however, isn't quite the same as competing platforms like Apple's App Store and Google Play. Those stores exist to publicize and sell apps for mobile devices; although the App Center will have Facebook-specific apps available, it can also act as a pointer to apps existing only in the Apple and Android stores.
Facebook's Aaron Brady, who wrote the blog post, said the App Center would be available "in the coming weeks," and encouraged developers to start getting apps ready for the unveiling by creating an "app detail page" that acts as an app introduction for potential users.
Also, for the first time Facebook is allowing developers to charge upfront for apps. Previously, the only way to collect money from an app was through an in-app upgrade.
Facebook's emphasizing the mobile aspect of the store; as the blog says, "App Center is designed to grow mobile apps that use Facebook -- whether they're on iOS, Android or the mobile Web."
The trick with iOS and Android apps is that they won't be sold through App Center. Instead, clicking on an app for one of those will take the user to the respective store, making App Center a conduit for other platforms.
Why would Facebook send users to other app stores? The key is the concept of "authenticated referrals," as described in the Mobile Guide. This means that all apps in the App Center are required to have a Facebook login. So, for example, if a user comes to Google Play through the App Center and downloads your Android app, Facebook has that user's profile information and can use it accordingly.
Facebook, then, doesn't get a fee for channeling customers to outside mobile app stores, but it does get information it can use to target advertising.
The App Center could have strong appeal for iOS/Android developers since they get another way to make their apps discoverable -- at the price of integrating with Facebook.
For HTML5 developers, the App Center represents another avenue for selling Web-based apps. Facebook claims a total base of more than 900 million users, and statistics indicate that Facebook is one of the most popular apps on both of the leading platforms. The potential market is huge.
Developers considering a Facebook app, or enabling iOS or Android integration through Facebook, should get started quickly; the blog says that priority will be given to those who create an "app detail page" by May 18.
Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.