Facebook’s very own app store has just launched, and it’s a thing of beauty.
We told y’all this was coming early last month. Basically, it’s a directory for apps of all kinds — not just Facebook apps — on many devices, including smartphones and tablets as well as the desktop.
You can preview apps before you download them; you can see screenshots and ratings. In fact, the whole interface will be incredibly familiar to users of the iTunes App Store, Google Play, or any other application marketplace you might be using today.
The App Center, as it is properly called, will begin rolling out to people in the U.S. today. Out of the gate, it will contain around 600 apps. The rollout should be complete for all Facebook users within the next few weeks.
The App Center is available in the Facebook iOS and Android apps, as well as Facebook.com. If you’re browsing mobile apps on your desktop, you can send those apps directly to your phone, as well. With the App Center, Facebook users have the chance to peruse apps from within Facebook’s walled garden, but the apps themselves are downloaded via the marketplace that corresponds with the mobile platform of their choice.
“The goal is to solve the app discovery problem… based on what you and your friends enjoy,” a Facebook rep told VentureBeat in a phone chat earlier.
Here’s a sneak peak that includes some of the developer and analytics features:
Over the past few months in particular, helping developers grow and distribute their apps has been a big concern for Facebook. The company has been highlighting Timeline-based growth for lifestyle, video and media apps, and apps for fashion and shopping. For many developers, this rush of Facebook-linked growth has been significant enough to warrant its own nickname: the Facebook Timeline bump.
And that traffic is all going back to the apps themselves; it doesn’t just live on Facebook. In May alone, Facebook sent its users to iOS apps more than 134 million times.
As an app developer, you’d naturally see a lot of opportunity from integrating with Facebook, which brings a built-in audience of nearly a billion users. Due to that critical mass alone, you might get more users. You might also get better data on how your apps are performing.
Eventually, you will likely see Facebook launching paid apps directly from the App Center and Facebook Credits as a nice path to monetization for developers. And when developers monetize via Credits, Facebook wins to the tune of 30 percent (in case you were following the money and wondering why Facebook would want to make its own app store in the first place).
Now, you might ask, is Facebook trying to compete with Apple and Google and Microsoft and their app marketplaces? The answer, if you listen to Facebook PR, is, “Oh, no! We would never dream of such a thing! Tut tut tut.”
But if you ask us, the App Center is currently a very subtle jab at the heavyweights with a long road between today’s launch and any serious competition.