SAN FRANCISCO -- If it couldn't figure out mobile advertising quite yet, mobile apps seem to be the next best thing for Facebook.
The world's largest social network opened up its new App Center today with more than 600 apps in the queue from the likes of Facebook favorites Zynga, Pinterest and Spotify. Overall, the App Center appears like the natural next step for the Open Graph platform.
Automatically, it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that Facebook is trying to compete with Apple's App Store and Google Play. However, that really isn't the case here as Facebook looks more like it's trying to build off of those sources, positioning its new App Center as a launching pad to these app stores and medium to help everyone out.
Doug Purdy, Facebook's director of developer relations, explained at a media event at the Bluxome Street Winery in San Francisco on Thursday afternoon that the App Center is a win-win for both Facebook users and developers.
"The App Center represents a new way for users to discover social applications," said Purdy, adding that it will give developers yet more access to Facebook's 900 million Facebook users.
Matt Wyndowe, who led the team that built the Facebook App Center, acknowledged that there are a lot of social apps already available, so the focus here was on three things: promoting "high-quality apps," offering a social and personalized experience for each user, and everything has to work for mobile.
Again, the connection to iOS and Android are key here. Purdy cited that Facebook is integrated on seven of the top 10 grossing iOS apps and six of the top 10 on Android. Furthermore, he noted that Facebook drove people from their news feeds to the Apple App Store approximately 83 million times in May and directly to iOS apps at about 134 million times.
So really, Facebook is trying to make the point that this is a logical step to promote social apps on its global network -- but making it so that users hardly ever have to leave Facebook in the first place.
"Facebook is this growth engine, and the App Center is another addition to that growth engine," Purdy asserted.
However, it's not going to be all friendly forever. Wyndowe responded to CNET that the App Center isn't going to be selling anything like streaming video...at least not yet. So perhaps the iTunes App Store could have some more serious competition coming soon.
Nevertheless, there still some more unanswered questions here. Beyond some fancy stats with big numbers, Facebook execs didn't offer many details about how this will generate money. Presumably for developers, this just offers them another lead-in to the bigger app stores, at the very least. There aren't any paid apps right now, but Facebook reps said they are still exploring this option.
The App Center will be rolling out to everyone in the coming weeks, and it will be available on mobile devices via the Facebook apps for iOS and Android, or by accessing Facebook.com on mobile browsers.
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