Deep Links, Extensions Turning Apps Into New Mobile Web

It’s no secret that mobile is winning the war for multiscreen dominance.  

According to a Comscore study, mobile accounted for 60% of total media consumption.  Perhaps even more eye opening, is a recent Flurry report that states consumers are spending 86% of their time on mobile using native apps versus mobile web. If marketers are to learn anything from the data, it’s that mobile apps are rapidly approaching a major digital milestone — replacing the World Wide Web as we know it. 

This transition has already begun and marketers need to be prepared. One of the historic major differences between mobile apps and the Web experience is interconnectivity.  Users can easily navigate and surf the Web, but mobile apps have traditionally been siloed from one another, until now.  Now, Deep linking and app extensions are enabling apps to connect, share and communicate, essentially recreating the web experience.

The general idea behind app deep linking is similar to hyperlinks found on the Web. An app is able to link directly to specific content buried within another app, allowing users to jump back-and-forth from one app to another.



For example, Google Maps now has a link that takes you directly into the Uber app to call a car. Hitting the ‘back’ button actually navigates you back to the app page you just left.  Mobile apps are finally starting to act like the Internet.  In fact, Google is even indexing these links to serve up within Web search results creating a seamless navigation between mobile apps and the mobile web.

However, while the concept of mobile app deep linking is simple; the execution isn’t quite as straightforward.  Mobile apps are designed for specific devices, operating systems, and are often housed in completely different appstores.  A deep link in a mobile app has to know whether to directly open an app, or if that app isn’t already installed, take you to the right appstore to download it first. 

This is why Apple and Google have developed their own app linking API’s.  Even Facebook has launched,  an open source standardization for implementing mobile app deep links.

Google’s Intent platform and Apple’s recently announced App Extensions take a fundamentally different approach.  These platforms allow an app to enable functions found in a completely separate app.  Conceptually, it is similar to downloading a plug-in or a font library package that can be used in Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop.  Rather than just creating a link between apps, this allows apps to literally share content and offer functionality from one another.

Extensibility is going to have a big impact on the app ecosystem. 

Smaller apps will begin to offer their services through bigger, more widely distributed apps.  What this means for app developers and marketers is an added focus on creating refined, useful functionality that can be extended to other apps. 

For instance, what if Shutterfly or even CVS extended their online photo printing functionality to be accessible directly through Instagram?  It could enable them to drive revenue through another property, reach an entirely new audience that may not engage in their branded app, and greatly improve the user experience with quick-and-easy access to buy photos directly from their library.

Mobile app deep linking and app extensions are integrating a Web-like experience into the mobile app space.  Deep linking will tie together the app universe and open up new methods of promotion and discoverability.  Extensions are creating a new type of app, one that acts more like an API, as opposed to your typical standalone app. 

These functions will generate new, creative approaches to forming strategic partnerships, as well as establish alternative revenue models.  As consumer mobile usage trends continue to rise, apps will replace the Web, and its time we start adjusting our investments from the traditional Web site to the mobile app.  

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