Imagine a web without URLs. That’s what the mobile app world looks like now

Above: LinkedIn's Joff Redfern gives a shout-out to LinkedIn users, at MobileBeat, July 8, 2014. On the right: Cnet's Ian Sherr.

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell/VentureBeat

SAN FRANCISCO — We might be shifting to mobile, but making arsenals of apps work seamlessly is still a challenge.

For example: Suppose your company has several different apps for different purposes, and you want to send a customer from one app to a specific screen within another app — without making them log in a second time.

Right now, that requires building your own custom cross-linking library, says LinkedIn vice president of mobile Joff Redfern.

At this year’s MobileBeat conference, Redfern chatted with CNET’s Ian Sherr about LinkedIn’s mobile strategy. The company now has six different apps, the newest being its Job Search app, and has to juggle them all.

Unlike the Web, where there is hyperlinking, switching from app to app has not been fully worked out yet, according to Redfern, although the company is working on it.

Redfern admitted the company’s cross-linking library is not perfect, but it’s a start, especially since this whole idea is relatively new.

Ideally, he said, it should be done at the operating system level.

“We believe that it should work more like an a la carte menu,” said Redfern.  Just like Microsoft’s Office suite of tools, LinkedIn wants its own professional tools (read: apps) to work together and feel cohesive.

For LinkedIn and app developers like it, there is some hope. For instance, Facebook in April launched its App Links tool, which lets mobile app developers link their apps to one another (or to create links within web pages that lead to specific apps). Similarly, Google in June announced a way to tie web apps and native apps together with its App Indexing API.

But so far, these deep linking solutions are limited in that they don’t work across all devices and mobile platforms. The reasons for that have to do with the way mobile platform creators — starting with Apple — set up their app stores to be separate from the open web. Now app developers are starting to run into the limitations of that “walled garden” approach.

For LinkedIn’s Redfern, continuity is key, not only between apps, but between devices.

“I really appreciate that I can watch something [on Netflix] in my living room…. Then go upstairs in bed and pull out my tablet” and continue watching, said Redfern.

Today, about 43 percent of LinkedIn’s member traffic comes from mobile, up from about 8 percent back when Redfern joined the company in 2009.


More information:

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network on the internet, with more than 259 million members worldwide, including executives from Fortune 500 companies. Founded on May 5, 2003, by Reid Hoffman and founding team members f... read more »

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Carl Foisy
Carl Foisy

How many folks use the App Store to search for restaurants in their city or to find info on their favorite topics? It'll be interesting indeed

Shashank Tripathi
Shashank Tripathi

It's an oddly ignorant article. Mobile usage has a lot of "URLs" or signposts in it. Not only is the biggest activity in the form of email/whatsapp/etc, and fb/twitter about sharing these signposts -- including, ironically, your piece about URLs -- one also has to remember names of apps to search in stores. If the idea is that search will overtake urls and signposts at some point, well that would have happened by now if it were meant to be. It won't. People like different points of access to places and things, some familiar, some less so.

Futures Birdle
Futures Birdle

I'm investing heavily into app domains, the future is VIRTUAL REAL ESTATE and I will amass as many as possible :D

Honey Brown
Honey Brown

If you didn't know where you were or where you were going, could that not allow for cloned sites, switch and bait type scams, redirects to places unknown, and the inability to share a direct link in a way that works for you - like in a blog post.

Daniel Appelquist
Daniel Appelquist

Just points out the absurdity of the app-centric approach to services. Use the Web for what it's best at, which includes built-in linkability.