Rumours that have all but been confirmed by the company itself suggest that Facebook is working behind the scenes on what amounts to an app store within Facebook. That is, a way to download apps from within the Facebook app by clicking on ads, essentially opening up Facebook as a portal to a whole new range of content.
The only catch is that - unless legislation changes elsewhere - the store will only be available in Europe. ‘Blame’ the EU’s Digital Markets Act which will pass into law in 2024 that forces the likes of Google and more specifically Apple to tear down their walled gardens and allow apps to be ‘side-loaded’ via other means.
Europe welcomes careful drivers
Meta (and Facebook) are obviously reasoning that Europe is a pretty big place and therefore it's worth the effort creating a Euro-only offering. Plus there’s a strong possibility of the same legislative changes (in some form) taking place in the US and elsewhere at some point in the future, in which case their store goes global.
And given that both Apple and Google currently charge app developers a 30% cut, any new game in town has the potential to undercut the giants, be exceedingly popular with app developers and make a lot of money.
AND while alternative app stores may have an uphill battle getting the attention of billions of smartphone users who are used to hitting the same, single, front-page button to get their apps, it’s fair to say that a brand as ubiquitous as Facebook won’t have the same trouble getting eyeballs.
Now app manufacturers can simply buy an ad placement on Facebook and have a button right there to install their app with no movement outside the platform, such as being kicked out to an App Store.
And the move is - in advance of official confirmation - already been welcomed in the industry. The CEO of alternative app store conduit Flexion Jens Lauritzson sums up the situation nicely. "What we are seeing is the result of regulatory pressure in the EU to open the app distribution market combined with changes in the user acquisition industry," he says. "Game developers are currently struggling with their user acquisition and reducing margins. More competition, like what Meta has announced, will improve the situation for developers over time."
All this and no charge…
So far there’s no word on how much Meta will be charging for such ads but the rumours state that up front fees from sales will be pegged at a nice round zero percent, unlike their competitors. And ‘free’ an awful lot less than 30% of everything.
The new offering is rumoured to launch as a pilot with selected Android app developers later this year, ready for the Digital Markets Act to smash open the doors when it’s introduced in spring 2024. Android being the smart choice to begin with as it already permits side-loading.
A spokesperson for Meta, Tom Channick, practially confirmed the plan to The Verge in an email, commenting, “We’ve always been interested in helping developers distribute their apps, and new options would add more competition in this space. Developers deserve more ways to easily get their apps to the people that want them.”
More stores, more choice and less fees. What's not to like?