Facebook launches App
It's just a gallery of mobile applications ... for now
Facebook is launching an App Center to recommend mobile applications based on demographic preferences as well as user ratings, just as long as they're tied into users' Facebook credentials – with a view to monetising the process eventually, of course.
The App Center won't just recommend mobile apps, it will also showcase web-based applications embedded in Facebook and even other websites, as long as they are based around the Facebook logon. Listing will be free, and users will receive recommendations based on their demographic and history rather than blanket star ratings, so the Center will look different to every customer who enters.
Facebook won't sell mobile applications – Apple would never permit such a thing – so users are directed to the appropriate app store (iTunes/Google Play, there's no mention of BlackBerry World) but Facebook is the company telling them what to buy and is now open for submissions.
But Zuckerberg's empire has commercial aspirations for its service, promising "a simple-to-implement payment feature that lets people pay a flat fee to use an app on Facebook.com", which is taking applications for beta testing now. For mobile apps that will have to jump though the app-store hoops, this would probably involve a cut going to Google/Apple, but for applications within the Facebook site it could be a useful source of revenue.
Facebook would love to make some money on mobile applications, it would be delighted to make some money on mobile anything – having identified that mobile users are growing in number but are almost entirely unexploited as far as generating revenue is concerned. Even if the App Center can't make money selling mobile app subscriptions, Facebook might be able to sell premium advertising on it, and should be able to filter out a lot of the kipple which blights the main app stores.
Targeting content based on social demographics, recommending things on the basis that one's Facebook friends liked it, has a bit of a chequered past. Google's social search has attracted more than its share of criticism, while Facebook's Beacon was treated with the derision it deserved, but app recommendations based on demographic as well as social factors and may be an acceptable thin edge of the wedge for consumers looking for the next Bubble Witch Saga with which to fill their time. ®