The move from desktop to mobile brought with it a shift in how we consume information. Instead of using a browser, we utilize dozens of apps that are each designed to complete a specific task. The result is that we have tons of great apps, but we’ve ended up with a disjointed user experience when navigating between them to find what we are looking for.
A new tactic called deep linking offers a solution. Deep links are enabling Google to add Android apps into search results and allowing companies like Facebook and Twitter to improve navigation within and between their apps. Unfortunately developers still don’t have an easy way to link directly into other apps. You shouldn’t have to operate a large mobile platform and create your own deep link standard to deliver a better user experience.
So we asked ourselves, how can we enable every developer to take advantage of the massive opportunity that the interconnected app world promises?
The App Search API
Today, we are excited to announce the world’s first App Search API, which enables developers to find and link users directly to relevant actions inside other apps. Not only can developers weave apps into a seamless experience with the App Search API, they can also discover the best place to link users based on the apps on their devices.
For example, let's say someone is reading an article in your app that declares Fancy by Iggy Azalea to be the song of the summer. With the URX App Search API, you could find a deep link to an app like Spotify on the user’s phone that would let them listen to the song with a single click.
Or maybe you have a sports app and someone is reading about the San Francisco Giants latest win. With the URX App Search API, you could help them immediately find tickets for the next game in an app like SeatGeek.
But relevance is about more than just the words on a page – it's also about the next action someone may want to take. If I just checked into a hotel, I might want to see what dinner options are nearby. After dinner, I might be interested in catching a movie and want to check showtimes. After I figure out what movie I want to see, I might want to book a ride to the theater. With our API, developers can help us use our apps together in a way that reflects how we go about our daily lives.
How it Works
Our team of engineers and data scientists have spent the last year building a knowledge graph on top of the content that exists within apps. We’re crawling and indexing linked data about apps to build an understanding of where entities exist, how they’re related to each other, and how they can be acted on. The App Search API lets developers access this graph with specific details about the user’s context (e.g. location, keywords, time, intended action). The API then replies with the deep links and other meta data of relevant apps that the developer can present to the user. Technically speaking, you make a call to our API, and we can return results in either JSON or HTML format to display however you want to.
Our graph includes apps that use either Google, Twitter, or Facebook tags. You shouldn’t care about which standard another developer implements to link to them, it should just work.
We also give you control over how to display results depending on if someone already has the app installed or not. You could decide to only show results for apps already installed on a device, or you could give the user the option to head to the mobile web.
Bringing Relevance to App Discovery
Another reason we’re so excited about the App Search API is that it provides a new way for apps to get discovered at precisely the right time. The majority of app marketing today targets users who fit a profile or whose friends have installed the app. It doesn’t take into account the content someone is currently viewing, the user’s context, or the actions they might want to take at that moment.
Contextually relevant discovery is especially helpful for niche apps that provide a lot of value in specific situations. For example, an app that helps golfers navigate the best courses in California is unlikely to reach the top of the app store. However, for someone about to play a round in San Diego, it would be highly relevant.
We’re just getting started
Starting today, we’re thrilled to open our platform beyond our early test partners to the broader developer community. Today, we’re looking for developers who want to enhance their user experience with relevant links, and over time we’ll provide monetization opportunities as well.
Sign up for our beta and we’ll be in touch with more information shortly. In the coming weeks, the first integrations will be released, and we’ll be posting sample libraries and SDKs to make it easy to get started.
I hope the App Search API will inspire developers to build apps that link mobile experiences together in a completely new way that has never been possible before.