Facebook App Store: Second Time The Charm?
App Center is Facebook's second attempt at a central app repository; plans include paid apps.
The social networking company, expected to go public later this month, hopes that a central app repository will make apps easier to find and is asking developers to prepare their apps for inclusion when App Center launches. The company says that Facebook (a.k.a. canvas), mobile, and Web apps that comply with its guidelines are eligible to be listed in its app store. But not every compliant app is assured inclusion. Facebook reserves the right "to remove apps that do not meet a high quality bar."
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Facebook's guidelines for app quality are not as extensive as Apple's guidelines, but they serve the same purpose: to safeguard the user experience by excluding obnoxious, tasteless, or otherwise undesirable apps.
This is Facebook's second attempt at a central app repository. The company launched its App Directory in 2009 but decided to steer developers toward search-based discovery last year. App Directory drove less than 0.5% of all app installs, Facebook product manager Carl Sjogreen said last June.
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To entice developers to submit their apps to App Center, Facebook is promising exposure for well-designed apps, and data about how users rate developers' apps over time through its Insights service. In Apple's iTunes App Store, such exposure is coveted: Apps that have been featured generally see a substantial surge in downloads, usage, and revenue.
Facebook's App Center aims to promote the installation of mobile apps for Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems by linking App Center mobile app listings to the download pages in the iTunes App Store or Google Play. This is isn't just charity: Many mobile apps rely on Facebook functions for account authentication and social interaction.
Building App Center with support for mobile apps also addresses Facebook's acknowledged mobile shortcomings. In a revised IPO filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday, Facebook elaborated on previous warnings that its ability to monetize mobile users remains uncertain. The company's recent decision to acquire mobile photo app company Instagram for $1 billion underscores its interest in enhancing its mobile competency.
Facebook's plans go beyond making apps more discoverable. The company also sees a revenue opportunity. It will be providing Facebook app developers with the opportunity to offer paid apps using "a simple-to-implement payment feature." Initially, this service will only be available to developers selected for the beta testing program. Facebook will take a 30% cut of paid app sales, like most other app stores.
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