2 May 2014

App Links: A Path to Pagerank for Apps?

At this week's F8 developer conference, Facebook unveiled App Links -- an open, cross-platform solution for app-to-app linking. The stated goal of the project, explained in the video above, is to make closed app ecosystems behave more like the web.

The solution essentially helps developers add meta tags to web content to specify compatible, deep-linked app content. Mobile-only apps can use Parse (recently acquired by Facebook) or App Links Hosting to publish these tags. Facebook also provides an App Links Index API to help developers discover if any web URL can be deep linked into an app. Developers are free to use alternative solutions to generate meta tags or check deep-links, but being an early mover gives Facebook an advantage.

This is certainly a boon for developers, but it also seems to be a very early, mobile equivalent of Google's Web Index. Facebook could conceivably use data from Parse and the App Links Index to create a Pagerank-like algorithm to rank mobile apps. Of course, Facebook would also need a proprietary app discovery platform to execute on that vision before Google attempts to implement equivalent solutions. I wonder if the Whatsapp acquisition fits into that vision.