We are in New York for the Inside Social Apps conference at the New Yorker Hotel. Manager editor of Inside Network AJ Glasser sat down with Facebook’s Director of Platform Partnerships David Fisch. The following is a paraphrased recount of the conversation.
Glasser: How is Facebook addressing issues of mobile app discovery?
Fisch: Most of discovery to date has happened through app stores, and I think what we’re hearing from developers today is that new discovery channels are going to have to emerge. This is front and center for us. The approach for us is to create good, free organic channels and paid channels as well.
Most of us have seen this problem before at web 1.0 companies, getting sites noticed. At first it was really difficult, and it wasn’t until we tapped into large portals and search that we started to see scale. Those things were great for acquiring users who were actively looking for you. Then came Facebook and social, and this began to change. Users started to get information pushed to them in the feed and that information and content was coming from friends, which is really powerful.
Mobile is really similar. With Open Graph and new paid marketing channels we can drive discovery.
Glasser: What does the shift to mobile mean for Facebook and developers?
Fisch: We’re very excited about the shift to mobile. Of a billion users, 600 million are accessing the service on mobile. Facebook and mobile really go hand in hand. Mobile is inherently social. People want to be in the moment sharing things they’re experiencing. Great experiences in life don’t happen at a desktop. Mobile applications are so perfect for social because what you do in life doesn’t happen at a desk.
We have seen a lot of developers use canvas to market to users for their mobile apps. It’s important for developers to integrate our SDK to get people to connect with their app with Facebook. With that, they can plug into the feed, notifications, App Center, paid channels like mobile app install ads. The combination of organic and paid distribution is really going to emerge in mobile, just as it has on the web.
A lot of developers who are building social applications are helping us get signals about how to get the most relevant app to the most relevant users. The Facebook ID is powerful because you can connect that and use it across all platforms.
Glasser: Are there differences in what you show to users accessing News Feed from different devices?
Fisch: News Feed is very sophisticated. We try to unify all channels and do some of that. For recommending specific applications, the onus is on the developer to give us the information that they have an application on smartphone and tablet, though we’re getting better at recognizing that ourselves.
Glasser: How do you make recommendations for users? Are the recommendations relevant or just random?
Fisch: They’re definitely not random. We look at games your friends play, and marry that with games you play and then make a recommendation. We’re probably not as great at surfacing relevant content to new users that haven’t made a lot of connections yet
Glasser: How important are ratings from friends or from an app store?
Fisch: A friend’s rating is very relevant, but if it’s not from friends, then it’s not. Another thing is that users won’t take the time to read reviews.
Glasser: How are apps changing on the Facebook platform, especially with the rise of mobile?
Fisch: Before Open Graph, it was clearly very concentrated by gaming developers. Now with Open Graph and particular on mobile, we have more entertainment and lifestyle apps.
Glasser: Have there been changes since the latest version of iOS where Facebook has been integrated? And Android?
Fisch: We keep investing more deeply in iOS. The experience is much faster which is better for developers. We’re investing in android as well, but nothing specific to share. We’re working to get it on par with iOS.
Over time we want social to be a core part of every platform. We’ve worked with Apple, we want to go deeper with them and with Google.
Glasser: Are there differences in how users respond to mobile app install ads on Android versus iOS?
Fisch: The data we have is very early. Nothing specific to share. A lot of marketing dollars are being spent on iOS and mostly from gaming developers.
Glasser: Are there things you would change if you could go back a year knowing what you know now?
Fisch: We started our mobile platform with single sign-on on mobile, basically you could log in and pull your friends into an app. But we didn’t bring interesting features like News Feed distribution and deep linking back into your app until recently. Looking back, we should have done it sooner.
Audience: How will location play into mobile app install ads?
Fisch: Location and mobile go hand in hand, and it’s something we’re excited about. Right now it isn’t a big focus of ours. We just launched mobile app install ads a few months ago. But it’s definitely an opportunity to be able to reach users when they’re in mall or baseball stadium or wherever.
Audience: Can you address what has happened with mobile apps getting less organic reach in the feed?
Fisch: There were some news and video apps that were getting a lot of distribution that has scaled back now. We’re really focused on working with parnters to share richer stories about the content they consume. That means maybe fewer stories but more engaging ones. For some applications, there might be short term decrease in reach of stories but over time that can come back and exceed where they were if they help users share better, more engaging stories.
Audience: You’ve been testing app notifications on the web. Will you bring that to mobile?
Fisch: App notifications have been being tested on desktop, but nothing to share about extending that to mobile.
Brittany Darwell, Inside Facebook: There are a lot of developers thinking about Facebook and mobile as different platforms. How does Facebook address this?
Fisch: We hear a lot, “Should I build a Facebook app or an iOS app, an Android app?” Facebook is complementary to all of these. Since we’ve started we’ve talked about how it’s a social layer. It started with web and now moved to mobile. Because there are so many different devices and you want to connect people across them, by definition, Facebook has to be part of all of them.