One of Facebook’s biggest strengths is its web platform, but with the evolution of hardware-tied mobile app stores, that platform is slowly (very, very slowly) becoming irrelevant. Today, Facebook announced its App Center, presumably to compete more directly with the Play Market and the App Store. Aaron Brady, on the Facebook developers blog:
Today, we’re announcing the App Center, a new place for people to find social apps. The App Center gives developers an additional way to grow their apps and creates opportunities for more types of apps to be successful.
In the coming weeks, people will be able to access the App Center on the web and in the iOS and Android Facebook apps. All canvas, mobile and web apps that follow the guidelines can be listed. All developers should start preparing today to make sure their app is included for the launch.
This strategy has the potential to be very successful if Facebook can provide great development tools and design guidelines for making web-based apps that can run inside the Facebook app as well as on Facebook’s website. Whether Apple would be okay with that strategy, since it would basically be a trojan horse platform, I’m not sure. I would suspect not.
I think the most interesting feature of the new App Center is a better ranking algorithm for giving apps “success.” Apple’s App Store rankings are pretty terrible because they rank based on very simple popularity data. Facebook wants to use more meaningful statistics:
Success through the App Center is tied to the quality of an app. 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.
This is a great use of Facebook’s proprietary usage and ratings data to improve user experience. Finally, Facebook also announced that it is working on a new app payments platform:
Many developers have been successful with in-app purchases, but to support more types of apps on Facebook.com, we will give developers the option to offer paid apps. This is a simple-to-implement payment feature that lets people pay a flat fee to use an app on Facebook.com.
All of these moves match up perfectly to the weaknesses Facebook has admitted to having in the “risks” section of their IPO registration statement.
See also: Facebook’s Numbers.