Mobile App Deep Linking

Twitter announced some new functionality in its Twitter Cards platform yesterday. At the top of the list is "mobile app deep linking". Here's how Twitter explains it:

With mobile app deep-linking, users will be able to tap a link to either view content directly in your app, or download your app, depending on whether or not they have your app installed. To enable this feature, you just need to add a new set of markup tags, explained here.

This might not seem like much, but it's a big deal and something I've been encouraging Twitter and others to do for some time. It is particularly helpful for e-commerce apps where sending someone to a mobile web page where they are not logged in pales in comparison to sending them to a mobile app where they are logged in with their payment credentials stored and ready to be used in a transaction.

For many ecommerce and marketplace businesses, this will be a huge help in delivering transactions instead of page views. I am sure there are a host of other application types where getting a logged in user instead of a logged out user will be super helpful.

Kudos for Twitter for getting this out.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Cam MacRae

    Yeesssss.On a related note: I cannot stand clicking on a bacn link from LinkedIn and being presented with a login page. You know it’s me, you bastards.

    1. fredwilson

      don’t get me started about that kind of stuffQuora is the web site that annoys me the most with login prompts

      1. kidmercury

        quora is so bad i intentionally won’t contribute and won’t even login, ever.

        1. btrautsc

          + 1M @fredwilson:disqus & @kidmercury:disqus

    2. Matt A. Myers

      I can’t stand clicking on bacon links either!

  2. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Mobile Matryoshka.

    1. Cam MacRae


  3. William Mougayar

    Yes, it’s about time this gets propagated further. Twitter has the lever power to pull others to implement inter-app operability of this sort.I saw this a few days ago, and it was a magical Aha moment.Good thing this type of linking is platform-agnostic so we’re not having the typical iOS vs. Android pissing contest discussions here.

      1. fredwilson


        1. Mordy Kaplinsky

          I wonder if that comment was was general thinking or inspired by insider information…

          1. fredwilson

            both, of course

          2. Mordy Kaplinsky


        2. PhilipSugar

          T-Mobile seems like they might have been reading as well.

          1. fredwilson

            yes indeed

      2. William Mougayar

        True. Thanks.

  4. OurielOhayon

    There is nothing new about it. URL schemes/handlers have been available for the past 4 years. It s just been poorly implemented by developers and platforms around. The new thing is that now Twitter supports it

    1. fredwilson

      agreed. and hopefully this will spur Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, etc to do the same

      1. OurielOhayon

        actually Facebook has been using this for a while in order to detect which apps are installed on your device. on a different note: i am waiting for Twitter to become a TRUE allternative to mobile app install networks. like Facebook did. With the right experience and tracking that could work

        1. Gordon Bowman

          agreed. twitter has been pretty late to the app install party. this is a big step in the right direction.

        2. Alan Wells

          Landing page with meta tags for twitter app card + promoted tweet = twitter equivalent of FB mobile app ad 🙂

    2. William Mougayar

      In part due to the psychology of fear of having users leave your app?

      1. Fernando Gutierrez

        Maybe, but with the previous implementation they already leave to go to the browser, so they were getting nothing in exchange of pissing users.

  5. laurie kalmanson

    totally a, wait-this-isn’t-being-done-everywhere? moment — which all the best updates and new things are#becauseawesome(still grappling with the aftereffects of reading too much science fiction and waking up one morning and remembering that interplanetary passenger spaceflight is still in the future.)

    1. Cam MacRae

      Did you see the statement from Iain Banks? Very sad. One of the greats.

      1. laurie kalmanson


  6. Nick Tomaino

    Also has huge potential for app developers. As we all know, app distribution is a huge problem and app linking within cards should help deliver downloads for devs!

    1. fredwilson


    2. William Mougayar

      Converser and Swrve are 2 companies that offer an in-app communication platform. I think we’ll definitely see more of that happen. It’s been happening in games already. Now it’s moving into marketing and customer segments.

      1. Barry Nolan

        Thanks William…i’m co-founder of said converser. For in-app communications we support linking, and it has unbelievable impact on conversion, especially with pay now. It makes apps act as remote controls for real life.

        1. William Mougayar

          Great. Thanks Barry!

        2. ShanaC

          I mean interesting, but I sort of wonder if we are just spinning our wheels with this stuff

          1. Barry Nolan

            Hey shana. Can you elaborate?

          2. ShanaC

            how is getting pinged by the phone any different than getting pinged by email? At the end of the day, I’m jut getting a lot of messages

    3. robertdesideri

      Are Twitter monetizing app developers via this new method [today]?

      1. fredwilson

        Not sure

        1. robertdesideri

          If Twitter aim to be a super-affilaite, a virtual mall with Jetson-esque ramps into the shops, the feature’s not v interesting. If the feature is the narrow end of a wedge it’s possibly interesting.

          1. Andrew Brackin

            I hope they do use an affiliate link when applicable. As a developer I want to want to keep these deep links so if Twitter is making money on them, they have an incentive.

        2. Alan Wells

          Not on the referral link (or at least it wasn’t mentioned at the event, plus that only works on paid apps), but if you pair the new App Card with a promoted tweet you have twitter’s equivalent of FB’s mobile app install ad product.FB’s mobile app install product is proving to be great for devs and was responsible for increasing FB mobile revenue by > 50% last quarter so methinks Twitter may see meaningful revenue from their analogous product.

  7. csertoglu

    @fredwilson:disqus this is the reverse approach to the apps breaking the web problem, where the apps get interoperability with the web, a kind of retrofitting. i am not religious on the remedy, but still think the underlying problem is significant. kudos to twitter. this is a step in the right direction, and twitter’s leverage on virality will help spread it.

  8. LIAD

    pretty decent of them.seems like a strategy reversal.they spent the past couple of years leveraging cards to suck linked-to media into the native twitter experience, now they facilitate/promote deep outbound linking.reverting to their roots of putting users first?

    1. fredwilson

      pendulums swing too far and then swing back

      1. btrautsc

        understanding this ^ is the key to great wisdom.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Your up arrow is pointing to @lauriekalmanson:disqus ‘s Rocky Horror Picture show example.

          1. btrautsc

            ahh so it is… while i am sure many believe that sentiment – the arrow was originally pointing to @fredwilson:disqus’s post: “pendulums swing too far and then swing back”

          2. Matt A. Myers


      2. laurie kalmanson

        rocky horror picture show photo opp … It’s just a jump to the leftAnd then a step to the right…

      3. matthughes


      4. ShanaC

        true of most things in life

    2. Matt A. Myers

      It makes Twitter more useful through fluidity.

    3. Murali Apparaju

      It appears Twitter finally realized money’s in the pockets of common tweeple & not with the zillion-follower celebs 🙂 Sure this sounds like users first, rather ‘user money’ first, but I’m sure the pressures from the investors are similar everywhere & that’s whats drivin Twitter too…. enhancing ‘revenue per user’ – resonates partly with my post here http://vishrasayan.blogspot

  9. msheeley

    Developers should be careful with how they implement this. If you decide to do this, make sure the twitter card has enough information on it so that the content that your user is sharing can be done without forcing a download. If the viewer wants more information, they can then click the link and download the app. Otherwise, you are introducing a lot of friction to your app’s content sharing experience. my 2 cents.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      I imagine doing some form of A/B testing would be wise – if a choice exists.

    2. Alan Wells

      I agree with this from a UX perspective but historically app devs have benefitted from aggressively exploiting new channels when they become available. Twitter cards are analogous to FB open graph content and I can name a few apps that saw massive growth when that launched by requiring users to download app before viewing content (socialism/viddy probably most notable examples). Traction they got from such behavior helped one raise a round on great terms and the other ended up with an acquisition, so I would expect to see similar behavior on twitter.

  10. Luke Chamberlin

    A blow against HTML5 apps? I wonder what an increase in deep-linking means for the open web.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      They will both still continue to move forward. HTML5 isn’t powerful enough yet for all apps.

  11. Philip Brown

    It’s probably too utopian of me to think this, but I would love it if all websites/apps/whatever just allowed easy interoperability like this. The power of the collective network just seems so much more stronger for everyone when things work together.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      It will happen over time, there is just a lot of friction with money given to projects who require the old ways to exist to sustain the revenue projections they hope for. I can see it coming from being a competitive move as well, though it will be the larger players who take part. I’m unsure of who will survive, though I know what the final 1% of factors will matter.



  12. arustgi

    This is absolutely huge. I worked for a company that made mobile commerce apps and websites for retailers and we always ran into this conundrum of isolated apps, which made it harder to sell apps to retailers.This kind of interlinking was what made the web, and could transform the app landscape as we know it.

  13. tacanderson

    As you pointed out Fred, this is a better experience if you’re on a mobile device but what if (bear with me for this fringe case) I’m *not* on a mobile device and actually using a laptop? If this opens iTunes or takes me to Google Play, it’s going to annoy me worse than those pesky login pages.

    1. Fernando Gutierrez

      As I understand it, if you are in a laptop it will go directly to the web version, not the app version.

    2. fredwilson

      i don’t think that will happen. they will know what kind of device you are on

      1. tacanderson

        Let’s hope so, but knowledge doesn’t always equal appropriate action 😉



  14. CJ

    I’d love to see Google adopt this for Android. This is really huge and I know I’d buy things on my phone more if I didn’t have to login.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Fluidity is good.

  15. Matt A. Myers

    Are they going to limit any apps from being linked into this way? They use Path as an example being linked into, which in some ways could be considered a competitor.

  16. matthughes

    That is awesome.Glad to see ‘openness’ trending on Twitter again.

  17. Pete Griffiths

    Wasn’t the web wonderful?

  18. dineshn72

    Suggestion piece for a blog post down the line – which Android phone are you lusting after next 😉

    1. fredwilson

      one with a camera that doesn’t take blue photos and videos

      1. kidmercury

        the forthcoming samsung galaxy mega. 6.3″ screen size. most obnoxious phone ever.

        1. fredwilson

          a true phablet

          1. Dave W Baldwin

            That sounds Seuss.

  19. ShanaC

    I dislike this mobile deep linking. Testing is already a pain in mobile – how can I guarantee rendering is equal among different apps?it also makes for unfair referral games .





    1. Alan Wells

      As it stands now, you can create twitter cards if you are savvy enough to control a website and add the necessary meta tags.Product idea: make an app where the atomic unit is the creation of a super simple twitter card-enabled single page (like Instagram photo pages used to be) except instead of filters, the user picks the type of card and the app presents the fields (photo/title/description/product details) needed to populate the desired card type.Twitter white lists cards at the domain level so as long as you stuck to serving pages from one place it would already be possible.



  22. Mark Essel

    I dig this because it makes app functions more like the open web where a link can bring you to a page where you’re already logged in/authed. When apps begin linking to each other regularly (and cross device) they converge on the what makes the web wonderful.Heads up Fred, the long road of Cameo’s beta testing is heading towards sunrise. if you’d like to meet the founders, this month’s a great time.

  23. mobilepundits

    I hope it is easy to view content directly your apps, download with mobile app deep linking…