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Facebook launches App Center; Struggle to Dominate the Mobile Space Continues

Nakul Santpurkar
9th Jun 2012
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In its quest for gaining mobile turf, Facebook’s opening up new frontiers. Earlier yesterday, Facebook launched the App Center for the web and mobile phones for the iOS and Android platform. It is akin to an App Store, featuring games and other utility apps. There are reportedly 600+ apps, and Facebook will give the user personalized suggestions on these apps based on its knowledge of the user’s engagement. From its announcement -

“The App Center gives you personalized recommendations, and lets you browse the apps your friends use. It only lists high-quality apps, based on feedback from people who use the app. You can send apps you find on your computer to your mobile device using the new “Send to Mobile” feature. If a mobile app requires a download, you’ll be sent to install it from the Apple App Store or Google Play."

So why is Facebook doing this? Lets look at it from the app, the user, the developer, and Facebook’s perspective. Firstly, for apps, it’s a one-stop shop for all the Facebook-intergrated applications and games from the mobile platform as well as the web. Plus, it’ll be personalized unlike the app-directory and thus hopefully increase user participation with the apps. Not that these apps need any more help in engaging, but this platform could seriously help boost the smaller apps that are not so recognized. For users – they will now be able to explore the ever-increasing apps and games for Facebook. Plus once lots of users are hitched to this, Facebook can easily recommend the user what apps it thinks are good for them, what apps their friends are using, etc. The exploitation of the OpenGraph into these apps will prove beneficial for users, as well as for Facebook.

Coming to developers, Facebook has seen huge success letting third-party developers build games and social apps using Facebook’s API. At the launch announcement, Facebook shared some stats. More than 230 million people play games on Facebook every month. More than 4,500 timeline apps have launched since its conference f8 in September 2011. Users can try their apps more easily, and the visibility of these apps has been magnified substantially. As an app-developer, this launch is a huge advantage for you. Developers will also be able to offer paid apps on the App Center, and this will help boost sales and interest towards building Facebook-integrated apps (Facebook keeps 30%, and the rest to the developer). The monetization will happen via Facebook Credits.

The AppCenter is a very smart move on Facebook’s part. Putting a central base for all the apps using the Facebook API is an advantage for everyone. Although Facebook might also try to sell the app directly (in which case it would become the App Store) later for revenue, which would pull lots of money from Apple’s sales, Facebook says it doesn’t have any plans of selling apps independently. But for downloading the app, Facebook sends customers to Google Play or the Apple Store, and thus garnering millions of customers to these tech giants. Apple has also promised to improve on its non-existent Facebook integration into iOS6, which should help Facebook significantly.

Another important angle to this is Mobile. Mark Zuckerberg remarked before the IPO that Mobile was their number one priority. The company is under lots of pressure to become a better mobile platform than its current status, where the usability and design of the Facebook mobile app have been criticized. And mobile is an excellent option to generate revenue. Following this, Facebook has been working hard to be more of a mobile platform - it has rolled out mobile versions of its Credits virtual currency, and its Open Graph’s modifiers which have helped lots of apps gain traction. There were rumors that Facebook was going to build its own Facebook phone , but it looks unlikely because of the hardware issues. The previous acquisitions of Instagram and Lightbox, as reported earlier, indicate that Facebook is all-set to increase its monetization prospects from mobile, also since customers are increasingly moving from the website to the mobile app.

With the launch of App Center, Facebook should ideally receive a substantial increase in revenue, as well as please both developers and users. How the App Center really affects its tryst with Mobile domination remains to be seen.

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