With mobile now accounting for the majority of Google searches, it’s fair to say that the mobile majority has arrived. But the platform still lacks some of the infrastructure that helped the web spawn two decades of unparalleled growth — namely, the ability to easily move from app to app.
But a technology known as deep linking could solve that problem, and in doing so bring the efficiencies of the web to mobile. A panel of speakers at Street Fight Summit West earlier this month addressed the issue, explaining how these new tools can allow developers to seamlessly link from one application to another, and begin to tie together the fragmented ecosystem of mobile applications.
“A lot of the infrastructure that makes the desktop web work the way that it does just doesn’t work for mobile,” said John Milinovich, CEO of URX, explaining that mobile’s lack of deep links — hyperlinks that propel desktop users directly from one webpage to another — has hamstrung a great deal of app development. Moving between apps to discover related content “takes eight steps now instead of the one or two that everyone would expect to happen from a desktop-first perspective,” he added.
Milinovich’s company, URX, has built a platform to solve that problem. The company indexes thousands of applications, creating an easy way for applications developers to find content — say, a business’s Yelp page — and create a link to that page in the Yelp app on a user’s device.
Panelist Bobby Lo’s app, Vurb, wants to use deep-linking to build a consumer-facing mobile search tool. The app brings together deep links to the various apps needed to complete a task — say, going to a movie — into a single place, or “snippet.” Through Vurb, a user can find restaurants on Yelp, book a reservations on OpenTable, and then get directions through Google Maps.
But deep linking is not a cure all for mobile’s problems, said Danny Bernstein, director of product partnerships at Google. He urged caution in exaggerating the issue that app-to-app fragmentation represents, noting that the web remains an essential element of the search experience on all platforms.
“Being able to connect app to app is really important, but we can’t overlook the web in this equation as well,” he said.
Still, all three panelists acknowledged the benefit of deep linking. Panelists even suggested that that the process can create an alternative to a central app store by showing users which apps they need to accomplish a given action, rather than putting them through the friction inherent in searching for the app that best fits their needs.
“The magic of context and deep linking is you can really leverage what the user is currently looking at, so when you’re in Vurb and you look at a restaurant, we can tell you whether you have Uber coverage or Lyft coverage or any other services that are relevant to that particular user intent,” Lo said.
Joseph Zappa is an intern at Street Fight.