It’s easier than ever to create a mobile app business from scratch, but it gets harder and harder every month to stand out from the crowd. Hours after Apple’s plans for improving app discovery emerged, Facebook reminded mobile developers that it offers an awfully big platform and discovery engine for their work.
The company published a blog post Friday morning outlining how it believes the Facebook can help developers concerned about the discoverability problem. Getting noticed in places like Apple’s App Store, Google’s Android Market, or the other big third-party Android app stores is tricky and often fleeting; sometimes the result of a fluke appearance on a “best of” list.
“On many of today’s mobile platforms, distribution is often a function of ranking and position in curated app stores,” wrote Facebook’s James Pierce, head of mobile developer relations. “While this benefits established apps and (those) that are editorially featured, for the majority of developers, getting an app discovered can present a real challenge.”
Facebook’s argument is that if app developers use Facebook to have users log into their apps, new users will discover that app naturally as friends share activity within the app on their News Feed. It cited examples such as Foodspotting’s iOS app and Diamond Dash, an iOS game that enjoyed a traffic increase “by a factor of 3″ after it started using Facebook’s Single Sign On technology. But Facebook would obviously like developers to think of Facebook itself as an app development platform, highlighting the Washington Post’s Social Reader Facebook app. (Donald Graham, CEO of The Washington Post Company, is a Facebook director and investor.)
Getting into bed with Facebook isn’t necessarily a recipe for instant success: of the 425 million people who accessed Facebook through a mobile device in a month, just 60 million, or 14 percent, go on to visit another app. Still, Facebook mobile usage is growing, and Facebook’s argument that people enjoy discovering new products, information, and perhaps apps from their friends is at the heart of what could be a historic initial public offering.