We all heard the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote in June announcing all of the exciting new features of iOS 6. In addition to Siri’s new powers, the deep Facebook integration has developers and iPhone users drooling. However, very little was discussed regarding the Facebook like functionality in the iTunes App Store. Although this feature isn’t as sexy, I believe that this integration is a game-changer.
For the past two years, application discovery has been a major issue that developers face. With more than 600,000 apps currently on the iTunes App Store, even the best apps get lost in the shuffle. If your app is not appearing in the “Top 25” list, it is tough to attract the attention needed to make it successful. Moreover, as more established firms are getting into the game with ample marketing budgets, they are essentially able to “buy” their way to the top.
However, if you look at how most consumers find apps, it is typically through their friends and word-of-mouth. This is precisely where both the iTunes App store and Facebook fail.
If you like an app on your iPhone, you can post a comment about it on Facebook, and some of your friends may download it. However, there isn’t an intuitive way for your friends to click a link and download something.
Many of us will look at Facebook on the Web and then open up the iTunes App Store on the iPhone and search for the recommended app. This is quite cumbersome. More recently, with iCloud, you can actually click a link in a Web browser and download the app directly in iTunes on your laptop. It then automatically adds it to all of your iOS devices. This feature, however, is not widely known or used.
With the new Facebook like feature in the App Store, I have the ability to click on the like button inside of iTunes on my laptop, or even in the App Store on my iPhone. This action will trigger a wall post on Facebook, and hopefully give a link so that your friends can download the app directly by clicking on that link. Also, as more Facebook users are shifting to mobile, clicking on that link from a friend’s wall should directly open up the App Store on your iPhone.
Although very little was shared regarding the workflow, I think this functionality is a game-changer for many app developers, because it could finally make the iTunes App Store more social, which was the original intent of the now-defunct Ping.
Apple also bought App Store discovery tool Chomp. We have yet to learn how that integration will affect the search and discovery algorithm of the iTunes App Store.
The moral of this story: App developers should continue adding social features into their apps and carefully study how the Facebook like button is going to affect rankings in the iTunes App Store going forward. Entire new business models can emerge because of this integration, and this year is going to be very interesting for app developers.
Ahmed Siddiqui is the founder of game company Go Go Mongo!, which inspires kids to eat healthier, and he also coordinates Startup Weekend events in the San Francisco Bay area.