URX and Re-Aggregating the Web

Native apps, the fuel powering mobile’s incredible growth, now account for more than 52 percent of consumers’ total digital media engagement. Despite our daily reliance on apps, they still lack many of the major benefits of web experiences. We cannot search, link to or easily travel from one app into another. Flipping through pages and folders to find the app you want is tedious and frustrating.

Enter deep linking, which carries the promise of bringing these very benefits to the app ecosystem. These links function similarly to URLs on the web – they enable us to go directly to a specific place inside an app. Deep links can be used to bring someone back to an app from a push notification or email, or used to link from one app to another.  Ultimately, they provide the foundation needed to create a more cohesive mobile experience across the web and apps.

THE STATE OF DEEP LINKING FOR CONSUMERS AND DEVELOPERS

Consumers are already experiencing the benefits of deep linking without knowing they exist. Instead, consumers benefit from a more fluid and connected experience when apps communicate with each other. Homeaway, for example, now integrates Uber, Instacart and Gogobot. Consumers can book an OpenTable reservation from Google Maps or listen to SoundCloud from Twitter. However, these direct integrations are time consuming and not scalable. 

Benefits aside, developers lack a standardized process to share their deep link structure with other developers, which makes it more difficult to connect apps. Unlike web URLs, apps do not share links to individual pages, which inhibits developers’ ability to collaborate and directly integrate with other developers.

Google, Twitter, and Facebook proposed individual standards for sharing deep links on their platform.  They are highly motivated to link inside apps so they can sell ads that link directly to a specific place of purchase.  Google is working to add deep links into search results, while Facebook and Twitter want to sell re-engagement ads and improve navigation on their platforms.  However, these companies do not make it easy for developers to use these links for their own benefit.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT THE DEEP LINKING CONUNDRUM

The key ingredient is to implement deep links across any and all platforms that make sense for your company. Fortunately, the methodology for each is similar and the benefits of discovery via Google search or social sharing is to great to pass up. The reality is that a unified standard is unlikely to appear anytime soon, so it’s most important to pick at least one so partners can link directly into your app.

Our company aims to remove this complexity by making it easy for apps to work with each other through an API that can find a link into any app that uses the Google, Twitter or Facebook standards.  We’re one of several startups attacking the discovery challenges in mobile today.

CONNECTING ALL OF OUR DEVICES

In the near future, our TVs, cars, appliances, and just about everything else will be connected to the internet.  As users, we will want to access information and take action on the most convenient device and expect all our digital services to work together seamlessly.  We won’t care whether we use a web browser or an app to make it happen, just that the experience is smooth.

The only way this will happen is if apps and sites have a common language to communicate with each other across devices.  That language is the web, and the faster everyone jumps on the deep linking bandwagon the closer we will be to a truly connected future.

This post was written for the Accel Partners blog

The Deeplink Debrief - December 15

The Deeplink Debrief - December 15

We rounded up the latest industry news, highlights and announcements in mobile engagement, search and deep linking to bring you the top articles to read. Subscribe here to receive the latest updates and insights from URX (delivered to your inbox every other week).

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A Recap of the Inaugural Deeplink.nyc

We were excited to participate in the inaugural Deeplink.nyc event, hosted by Eniac Ventures, which featured product demos by Deeplink.me, Button, Wildcard, and URX, as well as a panel on deep linking moderated by Vera Tzoneva at Google.

There was widespread agreement about the enormous opportunity and need for cross-app partnerships. We should be able to seamlessly go from one mobile app into another to perform an action, such as booking a ride, buying tickets, or listening to music.

Panel

The discussion revolved around the lack of a single standard, app monetization, and the role of deep linking across both apps and devices.

Since apps have developed as “silos,” there has yet to be a single standard for deep linking. While one standard was welcomed, perhaps by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), deep linking companies currently support multiple ways to link into apps.

In addition, it is too early to tell if the mobile-first experience will start with either the mobile web or mobile apps, even if apps monetize a lot better than the web. In the case where a user does not have an app installed, should a deep link take the user to the app store or the mobile web?

Finally, deep linking will facilitate partnerships between apps and operating platforms. It is inevitable that wearables, connected cars, and even smart home products will use deep linking technology to enable contextually relevant actions in the wild.

Company Demos

Deeplink - Noah Klausman set the stage with a timeline of how deep linking has evolved over the last few years, from the early standards by Facebook, Google, and Twitter to the recently announced APIs by Deeplink and URX. Noah also gave a demo of their DeepSearch iOS app, which allows users to search for relevant content from apps already on their phones. For example, a search for “mockingjay” showed reviews from the IMDB app.

Button - Chris Maddern focused on use cases for on-demand commerce. He described how users have “nothing to do” after completing an action. Dudas demonstrated the ideal user flow: reserve a table at in the Resy app, click on a push notification, and book a ride in Uber. He noted the importance of deferred deep linking for users who don’t have the destination app installed, the ability to take them to a specific app page after installation.

Wildcard - Doug Petkanics argued that deep linking alone isn’t enough and should be combined with a card-like mobile format that preserves the speed and richness of native apps. He showed a demo of their card-based browser: a search for “coffee” surfaced interactive cards from Eater and Yelp with relevant information. Users did not have to leave the browser to view the cards unless they wanted to download the corresponding app.

URX - Co-founders John and James then introduced the URX native ads platform, which lets publishers monetize apps without compromising the user experience. URX aspires to be the AdWords & AdSense for apps.

James also did a live integration of the “Listen Button” in just a few minutes, proving that it indeed requires zero lines of code. He topped it off with a cool demo that uses the URX App Search API and Estimote iBeacons to take users from physical objects in the real world to the most relevant mobile content for that object. Upon placing his phone in the vicinity of a watch with a beacon attached, he was deep linked into the Fancy app to purchase the watch!

View URX's slides from the event:

URX: From YC S'13 to 2015

It’s hard to believe that sixteen months ago when we presented at YC Demo Day, deep linking was an obscure concept. Fast forward to today, when deep links have become a critical component in every mobile strategy. This powerful technique allows companies to re-engage users after the install and take a more holistic approach to their app marketing. Deep links are used in push notifications, social campaigns, advertising, and app partnerships to shorten the path to action. Facebook and Google also threw their weight behind their own deep link initiatives to increase engagement on their platforms.

In the past year, URX has worked closely with developers and marketers in all facets of deep linking and app re-engagement. We partnered with companies like Kohl’s and Grand St. to send over 200 million links that direct users inside apps. We’ve helped direct-response giants like Spotify and Threadflip re-engage users with advertising across 100’s of millions of impressions. And we built a web-scale crawler to index in-app content from more than a hundred apps from Airbnb to Zagat, along with a deep link search engine to easily access this information.

With this foundation, we are excited to continue building the most advanced native mobile ads platform on the planet. Our platform includes four pillars that we’ve built over the last 2 years, all of which are needed to create amazing mobile experiences:

As of today, we’ve launched a music widget to let developers integrate cross-app music search in less than 5 minutes and get paid for driving traffic and engagement in other apps. We’ll be rolling out widgets across other verticals quickly.

For as much progress as URX has made in the last year, we're still in the very early days of being able to capture the massive opportunity presented by programmatic, native mobile advertising. In 2015, we will build on our 2 years of domain expertise, deep technology and data to improve the relevancy, efficacy and usability of URX's platform to truly become the connective tissue between apps.

If you're an app developer who wants to monetize your app without compromising user experience, or would like to join us on achieving our ambitious mission, contact us to learn more about how we can work together.

John

 

A/B Testing in Go: An Interpreter for Facebook's PlanOut

PlanOut, which is Facebook’s set of tools for running online multivariate tests, makes it easy to run simple and complex field experiments. Facebook shared an open-source version of this framework, which is written in Python. We wanted to be able to use PlanOut to run experiments for our search engine, which is written in Go, so we wrote a Go Language interpreter. We’ve open-sourced this interpreter to make it possible to everyone to use PlanOut for applications written in Go – check it out here.

Designing tests for our search engine

We run multivariate tests to improve search relevancy and adjust the parameters our search engine uses to order, boost and filter search results. While there are a number of tools available, we selected PlanOut because it allows us to craft statistically sound experiments, we can integrate it anywhere in our stack, and we have control over the integration.

Some of the first tests we will run are around filtering or boosting certain search operators, like date and location. For example, are we providing better results if we boost results with a certain date range, or if we only show the most recent search results?

After we set up our testing parameters, we can randomly segment users, send them to different sets of search results, and then evaluate the both sets of search results based on click-through rates, search relevancy, and other key metrics.

If you’re interested in learning more about how we’re building our search engine, we’ve written more about it in these posts:


URX is hiring savvy engineers to build our search engine. View our job listings here.


Powering App Partnerships with URX

One of the the biggest barriers to app partnerships today is sending a user directly into another app.  You need to find if a deep link exists, determine whether the user already has the app installed, and then route the user the to app or web appropriately.  On top of that, there are multiple deep link standards a developer could choose to implement.

One of our primary goals at URX is to make it easy for apps to work together.  With our iOS or Android SDK, you can send users into an app with a single line of code.  We’ve taken the complexity of linking into apps away so you can focus on creating the best experience.  You can now quickly set up a cross promotion campaign or power an affiliate relationship that wasn’t possible before.

Implementation

The code can placed anywhere in your app.  Typically, it would be added an event handler in response to a user input (e.g. when a user clicks a button).   With this line, the user will be directed to the mobile web if they don’t already have the app installed.  I used an Airbnb link for this example.

iOS example

[[URXResolutionRequest requestFromUrl:@"https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/249833"] resolveAsynchronouslyWithWebFallbackAndFailureHandler:^(URXAPIError *error) { // Handle Error }];

Android example

client.resolve(new UriResolve("https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/249833"), AndroidResolver.installedApps(context));

Note that our iOS and Android SDKs are simply a wrapper around the URX App Search API.  If you want even more control, visit our full documentation and read about our resolution endpoint.

This easy solution solves a major pain point for developers looking to connect the experience across apps.  Email me at info@urx.com with any questions and I’d be happy to help you get started.

James

Join us for URX Office Hours

It's been so exciting to see all the new apps and integrations that developers have created since we released our API a few months ago. We would love to meet with you to learn more about what you're building.

On Wednesday 12/3 and Thursday 12/4 from 4pm-7pm PST at URX headquarters (168 S Park Street, San Francisco), we'll be holding open office hour sessions to answer any of your design, integration, or general questions about app development and deep linking.

If you're in the Bay Area, we hope you'll join us. Or, if you aren't local but would still like to meet, we would be more than happy to set up a Google Hangout with you.

Please email beta@urx.com if you would like to join us.

Look forward to seeing you, and thanks for being a part of our beta!
-James

The Deeplink Debrief - November 20

The Deeplink Debrief - November 20

We rounded up the latest industry news, highlights and announcements in mobile engagement, search and deep linking to bring you the top articles to read. Subscribe here to receive the latest updates and insights from URX (delivered to your inbox every other week).

Read More