Did Apple Just Solve Deep Linking?
One of the coolest things to come out Apple’s September product event was 3D Touch. It lets users indicate levels of intent based on how hard they press apps and links. A long press previews what’s on the other side of a given link while pressing harder opens it, and swiping up reveals additional actions. Beyond the gadgetry and sex appeal of 3D Touch, one thing hasn’t been said: This is essentially deep linking, an area that will be a key battleground in local.
Deep linking is the art of linking from one app (or website) to deep within another. It’s being touted by Google and others as the answer to the cumbersome waltz across your screen to tap in and out of single-function apps.
Could 3D Touch be a better solution to that same pain point? It could preempt deep linking by peeking deep within other apps — a lighter and more elegant solution. I’m calling it “deep previewing.”
Put another way, deep linking promises to eliminate the steps to tap in and out of apps and go through the front door every time. 3D Touch takes that a step further by not forcing you to even leave the app you’re in.
It will take a while for hardware compatibility to cycle in, but this could fundamentally transform mobile interaction. The old way will eventually seem binary — either you tap or you don’t. Now there’s added dimension in haptic control.
But why is this important for local? The app fragmentation issue that deep linking addresses is even more pronounced within local. That’s partly because local searches are more multi-dimensional, as Vurb reminds us.
Mobile-local search also indexes higher than overall mobile interactions when it comes to immediacy and intent. So bouncing around to several apps to plan a night out is all the more painful, given eagerness levels and a ticking clock.
For local advertisers. the implications also are huge. It was already the case that mobile websites and SEO are giving way to a greater need for presence within local apps. That need becomes heightened in a deeply-linked appverse.
Facebook had a similar battle cry in its recent Pages refresh, saying “be where your customers already are.” A more deeply-linked universe of apps — where Facebook dominates market share — could further strengthen its position.
Meanwhile, Google’s answer to app fragmentation is Google Now — a “hub” that federates third-party apps via Now on Tap. It also indexes apps so that browser-based search results can link users to relevant pages deep within an app.
But any Google moves to improve the overall app environment are at least partially saddled by an innovator’s dilemma, given that the browser is where search lives. More app activity means less search, which is a conflicted position for Google.
Apple, meanwhile, has much more to gain from an interoperable and user-friendly app environment. This is partly due to its 30 percent cut of app revenues, but primarily to attract users to iThings, where most of its massive profits lie.
Beyond 3D Touch, a more explicit indication of Apple’s intent to solve deep linking is at the software level in iOS 9. Together with 3D Touch, this one-two punch could be the (so-far) unrecognized solution to the deep linking dilemma.
Michael Boland is chief analyst and VP of content at BIA/Kelsey. Previously, he was a tech journalist for Forbes, Red Herring, Business 2.0, and other outlets.