The rumors of a Facebook app store were true, it appears, as the company has announced an app-pushing portal that will be accessible both by mobile users and by those on the web.
But earlier talk of Facebook pushing HTML5 apps to Apple’s iOS platform and thereby circumventing the iTunes App Store seem to have been exaggerated, or at least aren’t yet the case. Instead, Facebook’s app store is a little more passive, according to a story from the Huffington Post. When mobile users choose an app they find on Facebook’s “App Center,” as the service is dubbed, they’ll be routed to a storefront where the app is kept. In the case of iOS, that’ll be Apple’s iTunes App Store; on Android, Google Play will likely be used (although it doesn’t have to be).
Facebook does intend to make its web apps available through the App Center, and will also be offering paid apps through the service, not unlike what Google does with its browser-based Chrome App Store. From the sounds of things, there will be new apps for Facebook users can purchase just like they do for their smartphones.
Facebook’s App Center won’t be available for several weeks yet, but it will be user-curated, at least to some degree. According to a Facebook Development Blog post, apps on the store will have to meet Facebook’s quality standards, but those that receive too many poor user reviews will be bounced from it. Facebook will also actively try to target apps at users based on what they like and what they use.
Expect Facebook to make its app store as robust a means of pushing apps of all kinds as it can. The real moneymaker for the social network is advertising, and any apps that users buy through Facebook’s App Center, even if they buy them from iTunes or Google Play, will provide Facebook with new data. That’ll allow the network to target ads, suggest new apps, and gather more user data.
The mobile aspect of the Facebook app store could potentially be the most interesting, because since Facebook won’t be selling the apps direct, it’ll need a good reason to get users to use the App Center as a funnel to find new mobile apps. The best way would probably be to offer a lot of potential connectivity between web-based Facebook apps and their mobile counterparts. If Facebook can make users want to wander its App Center from their mobile devices, it’ll be able to pick up lots more data about mobile users, which will make it easier to gear its ads when it eventually adds them to its mobile app. But in order to gather that data, Facebook will need to convince users to come to it rather than go straight to iTunes.
It’s interesting that for all the rumors of Facebook’s impending app store, the social network is choosing not to compete with the mobile powers-that-be. Of course, that makes a lot of sense, because Facebook selling web apps for iOS would most definitely result in Apple doing everything it could to destroy the feature. This way, Facebook can present itself as a partner to Apple and Google, rather than an insidious competitor.