As it moves to better define its mobile strategy, Facebook is launching an app store. Dubbed the App Center, the idea is to give developers more ways to grow their app momentum while making it more convenient for consumers to find their favorite apps and discover new ones.
Within weeks, Facebook users will be able to access the App Center on the Web and on iOS and Android Facebook apps. All listed apps come with a detail page so consumers can see what makes it worth downloading.
"Success through the App Center is tied to the quality of an app," wrote Facebook developer Aaron Brady in the company's Developer Blog. "We use a variety of signals, such as user ratings and engagement, to determine if an app is listed in the App Center. To help you monitor user feedback, we are also introducing a new app ratings metric in Insights to report how users rate your app over time."
Facebook's Strategic Timing
We caught up with Jake Wengroff, global director of Social Media Strategy and Research at Frost & Sullivan, to get his take on Facebook's latest move. He told us the App Center launch couldn't come at a better time: the social networking giant has been struggling to present a story to investors for its coming initial public offering that it 'gets' mobile, or that it has a mobile monetization strategy.
"In Facebook's S-1 documents, the company listed mobile as a major risk factor, as Ads and Sponsored Stories currently do not render in the mobile versions of the social network," Wengroff said. "Facebook estimates that about half of its 900-million member audience currently access the platform on a mobile device, and the company cannot continue its growth trajectory without a clear mobile revenue strategy."
Of course, Wengroff noted, Facebook's new App Center is not exactly new. The company has had an app directory since 2009. And Facebook will not sell the apps directly, rather, it will send millions of redirects to Apple's iTunes App Store and to
Google's Google Play service.
New Revenue Streams
"For paid apps, and for apps that offer in-app purchases, Facebook will collect its 30 percent when users pay with Facebook Credits," Wengroff said. "As such, the new App Center will become central to Facebook's mobile monetization strategy, though it won't be all. Facebook, normally secretive, will roll out more and more services and enhancements over time."
Wengroff's conclusion: the App Center's benefit for developers is the access to the ratings, reviews, and usage data that only a social network like Facebook can provide. Whereas anyone can freely review an app in the iTunes app store or Google's Google Play service, he said, Facebook can provide developers access to untold amounts of usage data, which can help advise and eventually produce more useful apps.
We also asked Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, his thoughts on the new Facebook mobile initiative. He told us the App Center is a better version of a comparable centralized app destination that Facebook had a long time ago.
"It's consistent with the idea that Facebook is a platform that third-party developers can leverage for more social exposure. It's also going to be a way that Facebook makes some revenue on third-party usage of the platform over time," Sterling said. "Immediately it becomes the third major app store after iTunes and Google Play."