Connectivity on the Internet is one of the things that makes the platform so dynamic. However, within apps, the Internet has been partially fenced in, so that it can work well in one specific way. This causes a stumbling block for interconnection, which the App Links project hopes to remove.
App Links is an open source attempt at building a better infrastructure for diverting users from one app to another. If the project, led by Facebook of all companies, is a success, then users could click a movie link in a review app and find out if that movie is playing at a theater near them.
“Our main goal is to help build the fabric of the mobile ecosystem, similar to the way the Web works today,” Vijay Shankar, project overseer for App Links at Facebook, told journalists.
According to Wired editor Cade Metz, this isn’t the first attempt at a standard like this.
Google and Twitter offer competing “deep link” standards, called App Indexing and App Cards, and companies like a San Francisco startup Famo.us are building tools that allow companies and coders to create viable apps using the same standard technologies that run inside web browsers.
Here’s the thing: If there are competing standards, there’s no standard at all. App Links hopes to be the standard by offering a system that’s functional across platforms and open source. Curating this connectivity could also have benefits for web crawling by enabling bots to index links within apps more easily.
The most obvious benefit for a project like this is money. Both advertising and e-commerce stand to gain a lot by shepherding users from ad to product page to checkout.
“If an ad for the e-commerce app Fancy… appears inside the Facebook app and it includes an app link, Shakar pointed out, you can instantly move to a page inside the Fancy app where you can buy something like a chair or a clock,” Metz writes.
Mobile subscriptions climb rapidly every year, e-commerce revenue is already bringing in billions of dollars, and there’s no sign that the trend is towards a shrinking market. If Facebook and App Links are able to create a standard that is widely adopted, then perhaps all apps will one day function as seamlessly as standard web browsing does.
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