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