Facebook is moving to turn itself into more of a full-service mobile app store, similar to the Apple App Store and Google Play. On Tuesday, the company announced on its developer blog the ability for Apple iPhone and iPad users running the latest Apple software, iOS 6, to download new apps directly from advertisements on the Facebook app, without ever having to leave it to do so.
“Now, people on iOS 6 can install an app without leaving their Facebook experience,” wrote Facebook’s Commerce and Payments Product Manager Deborah Liu in the blog post. “When they click on an ad, the App Store will appear in another dialog box.”
Previously, iPhone and iPad users who were looking at the Facebook app and who clicked upon on an advertisement for another app, say, the “Ebay Now” app, would get redirected into the Apple App Store (screenshot from this reporter’s iPhone 4S below):
Now, Facebook has placed the Apple App Store itself into a separate, smaller window within the Facebook app (Facebook screenshot below):
“After installing the app, they [the user] will be able to continue where they left off on Facebook,” Liu wrote.
The new feature helps Facebook keep users engaged on its own social network and further bolsters the company’s plans to become the center of a user’s digital life, both on desktop computers and mobile devices.
To be clear, Facebook only offers the feature to paying customers of its ad products.
Facebook also announced two other new features along with that update on Tuesday: New ways for apps developers to customize their ads and larger app ad formats, as well as more granular analytics breaking out the demographics of the smartphone and tablet customers that do download apps from Facebook ads (Facebook screenshot example of the new demographics below):
“Since launch, a broad range of apps such as Spotify, Hotel Tonight, Fab, and Kabam’s The Hobbit have achieved success getting high-quality installs through mobile app install ads,” Liu concluded. “But we will continue to make updates to the product that improve the experience for people and developers using the ad.”
Facebook first introduced the ability for developers to buy Facebook ads containing links to the developers’ own app download pages as a beta version in August, launching it fully in October. Again, though, these ad products only linked users to the other two popular app stores, Google Play and Apple’s App Store.
Tuesday’s move brings Facebook’s app advertising business into a whole new, more self-contained realm.
It echoes the move by Google in November to begin allowing users of its Google Plus social network to download new Android apps directly from Google Plus itself, without having to enter the separate Google Play store.
Facebook itself in June launched its own “App Center” for apps and games that users can play directly on the Facebook website and link with their Facebook profiles, but those are differentiated from the types of apps that Facebook allows developers to advertise on its mobile apps and mobile website.
The company last week announced changes to allow developers of apps sold and offered through its App Center to place a button directly on their own company Facebook pages to “Go to App” or “Play Game,” directly.
All in all, these updates indicate that Facebook is indeed striving to be a “third” option to the Google Play store and Apple’s App Store, though one that remains compatible across both of those competing markets.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in September explained more about his vision as it pertains to mobile apps. As he told Michael Arrington at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco:
“We [Facebook] think that we can basically build an environment, or build this information platform, that goes across iOS and Android and mobile web and every other mobile platform that’s out there, where every developer who’s building anything on anything can use Facebook and we think that puts us in a really strong position.”
And for the time being it seems, both Google and Apple are fine with Facebook doing just that.