Yesterday, Facebook released App Center, a home for Facebook-integrated mobile applications. Much like Google Play or Apple’s App Store, Facebook’s App Center will promote various apps to users. Unlike other marketplaces, apps are not ranked - each user will receive personalized recommendations. This is a great move by Facebook to promote apps built using their platform and gives them even more power than they already have on the uptake of certain mobile applications.
Facebook’s App Center enjoys a few distinct advantages over its competitors:
1. Data: Facebook has much more data on users and user behavior than Apple or Google. Facebook’s application recommendation system can employ a user’s likes and interests across Facebook and the web. They don’t need rankings to tell you what you should download and you won’t need to search for it. App discovery is an issue for even the best mobile developers, so if Facebook can target apps to specific users it will be a great tool for distribution.
2. The Ratings Game: Apple hasn’t been able to conquer the ratings spam issue that plagues the App Store. Developers leave 1-star reviews on competitor’s applications. Users leave ratings on apps they have never opened. These problems are exacerbated by the fact that user accounts on the App Store are not necessarily tied to a real person. Because Facebook user accounts are tied to a real human being, it’s much easier to avoid spam (the time it takes to set up a spam Facebook account > the time it takes to set up a spam email account).
3. The Social Graph: Mobile developers have to push users to share apps with their friends. With App Center, an app can be recommended to me because ten of my good friends are using it or give it a high rating. Knowing which mobile apps my friends are using would be much more valuable than knowing which apps everyone is using.
Now what’s in it for Facebook?
1. Platform Distribution: Facebook could control an aspect of the mobile app ecosystem. Mobile is an area of uncertainty for Facebook. They spent a lot of time pushing for HTML5, when they should have been focused on native applications. They need to ensure that their platform continues to grow on mobile as it has on the web. Pushing downloads of apps using the Facebook platform gives them even more data about their users.
2. Controlling the Rise and Fall of Apps: We’ve seen that Facebook’s platform is a very powerful tool for distribution. It can make your app soar to the top of the charts because of heavy newsfeed placement. A small change can also reduce the Facebook traffic heading over to other sites. Facebook can use App Center to demonstrate the power they have over mobile, not just the web.
3. Monetization: Facebook can charge developers for referrals that lead to paid downloads or take a cut for fixed-price paid apps within the App Center.
I’m excited to see where App Center goes - we’ll likely be seeing a lot more of Facebook on mobile apps in the near future.