Facebook has just pulled another ace from up its sleeve, with the launch of App Center. Announced prior to the social network’s going public, App Center is supposed to be a clearinghouse through which Facebook users find applications for their smartphones, tablets and desktop computers based on a recommendation engine.
Facebook’s App Center was not designed to compete with established application marketplace like the iTunes App Store and Google’s Play Store (formerly Android Market). Rather, it is meant to work with these app marketplaces, in order to provide a cross-platform engine through which users can find software for their devices.
Users can acquire apps from the Facebook App Center, both free and paid — including “freemium” apps that are free to download, but require money for premium content. With the App Center, Facebook is essentially allowing developers to charge an upfront fee for their apps, whereas the social network only allowed in-app purchase prior to the launch.
The App Center offers web apps, Android apps, iOS apps and desktop applications that use the Facebook user login functionality.
Not Just the Money
Facebook’s App Center opens the possibility for developers to reach out to users regardless of platform. But more than just the potential earnings from each app download, the bigger benefit here is the potential market. Facebook is essentially offering developers access to its 800 plus million users. Apps that get featured on Facebook’s list of Top Rated, Trending, Recommended and “Friends” are more likely to get considerable exposure.
Additionally, in referring a user to the official app store, Facebook is pushing user details, such as email addresses, profile information (including education and work history), and friends’ profile information. This, in itself, is likely to be worth more than nominal dollars for a developer or marketer.
It can be noted, though, that Facebook’s App Center only uses a recommendation engine for giving app suggestions. There is no search functionality at the moment. As such, users will get easy access to apps that their friends are likewise using.
At present, App Center only lists 600 apps at launch. This translates to better exposure for each of the apps listed at launch time. Meanwhile Facebook considers the App Center as a vehicle for keeping relevant in an increasingly mobile environment. Facebook will drive traffic to the existing, established app stores, while it will also get better exposure for apps that use Facebook in some way, thus helping popularize mobile apps that use Facebook login or data along the way.
App Center is live via facebook.com/appcenter. Apps are not downloaded directly to one’s mobile device. Rather, these are pushed through a “Send to Mobile” button on the App Center page, with which users are directed to their platform’s official app store.
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