Facebook Quietly Announces Its Very Own App Marketplace

By May 11, 2012

Facebook released details of its app marketplace, which it dubs the “App Center,” on the Facebook Developers page this past Wednesday.

The company hopes that a centralized app marketplace will make it easier for people to find great social apps all in one place. Facebook is giving developers a few weeks’ lead time to make sure their apps are up to spec, but allows them to make pages for their apps (explained below) now. The App Center is expected to launch “in the coming weeks.”

Much like with Apple‘s iOS and Mac App Stores and Google‘s Play marketplace, all apps listed on Facebook’s App Center will have a “detail page” with screenshots, user reviews and information about the app. The App Center aims to drive app installations on mobile devices by linking directly to Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play marketplace. Facebook promises particularly popular or well-designed apps prominent placement on the front page of the App Center.

Facebook also promises developers several interesting new capabilities, like updates to to its Insights analytics service which will allow app developers to break down app usage and ratings by age and gender demographics, and allow them to look at how their apps’ ratings evolve over time. Perhaps the most intriguing new feature of the App Center, at least from the perspective of app developers, is that is will support paid apps, and the feature is entering private beta testing shortly. Users will be able to pay a flat fee (set by the app developer) to use the app natively, on Facebook.com.

This is Facebook’s second attempt at creating a unified app marketplace, after it bungled the launch and execution of its App Directory in 2009, which Facebook’s product team shuttered in July of 2011.

The fact that users will be able to use apps within Facebook means that the company is finally growing into the name of their product for developers, their Platform. How this will all play itself out is uncertain. A number of questions and new possibilities are raised by the App Center, like how it will effect companies’ product development strategies and whether this is a harbinger of bigger things – like a Facebook phone – to come.