In a move that is sure to make many app developers happy, Facebook this week launched its App Center, which aims to help users find apps to use on Facebook.com, iOS, Android, and the Web.
The new platform let users can browse apps by category and find out which apps their friends are using. The discovery platform already boasts 600 apps, including Draw Something, Shazam, Pinterest, and Viddy.
“The App Center helps high-quality apps grow by promoting those that people enjoy the most,” Bruce Rogers, a programmer at Facebook, said on the company’s developer blog. Facebook originally announced plans for the App Center last month.
The App Center isn't really a marketplace as much as it is a search tool--think more Yelp than iTunes. Each app gets its own profile page, complete with ratings, reviews, images, and a list of all the users’ friends who have downloaded the app. When logged onto Facebook on the Web, users can browse apps by categories like News or Travel, then send a notification to their phone, where the install page in the Apple Store or Google Play center will automatically appear.
That is where the real promise lies, says Bo Fishback, co-founder and CEO of Zaarly, a mobile app that lets users buy and sell goods and services to people nearby.
“The cool thing for us is, it will help to bridge the Web-to-mobile divide,” Fishback says. “We’re a heavily mobile company, but we also have a Web presence. If you’re on the Web, the chances of you discovering us accidentally is not very high.”
Other start-ups are more excited about the prospect of getting their apps in front of the eyes of Facebook’s 900 million users without having to shell out thousands of dollars in advertising.
“We’re a bootstrapped indie developer,” says Thomas Chung, vice president and general manager at Playforge, which makes interactive games like Zombie Farm and Tree World. “That means mean we don’t throw gobs of money at the problem of getting our games discovered. We think the App Center will strongly facilitate word-of-mouth discovery for quality games.”
Chung said Playforge submitted its app to the App Center last week, and there was only one pain point: having to submit artwork that is inconsistent with the specs for the Apple App Store, where the developer sells most of its games.
“It would make it much more seamless if there were more overlap on that aspect,” Chung says. “But of course, we are still grateful for any new channels that would give more affordable or free mobile distribution.”