As Wildcard cofounder Doug Petkanics put it, deep linking alone isn’t enough. The mobile Web needs a new mechanism to display content. The UI functionality of cards is constant, allowing each to move around the mobile landscape from platform to platform. Then each individual app—be it service apps, content apps, shopping apps, etc.—decide how much information the card shows before prompting the user to download or continue his or her experience in the app itself, via a deep link.
By replacing traditional mobile Web browsing with card browsing, Wildcard posits, cards become the top of the funnel for app discoverability, shareability and portability. Deep links keep that user engaged in the funnel and ultimately convert and monetize them.
This could be especially useful on an emerging platform such as wearable devices. On a smartwatch’s screen, rendering a typical mobile Web page doesn’t work. A card, however, is both static and portable enough to be the perfect delivery mechanism of wearable app content.
Wildcard is barely out of stealth mode, but with both a newly released card browser app for end users along with card-based developer tools, it has the potential to blow up fast.
The next steps for these companies and deep linking in general, the Deeplink.NYC panel members agreed, are more cross-app partnerships. During the discussion, representatives from the four startups and audience members, speaking for companies and apps like Foursquare and JackThreads, talked about how the mobile commerce focus on app downloads is only temporary. The Web model doesn’t fit into the native interoperability trend in mobile development, and mobile companies must be prepared to refocus around capturing and monetizing user intent by weaving apps together through cross-app partnerships on the business side and deep links on the technical side.
What about standards?
Most of the evening was full of excited conversations and presentations full of possibility, but the panel did ultimately broach the topic of the biggest catch with a technology as new as this: standards.
Right now, seemingly every deep linking technology has a de facto “standard” or specification. URX has its omnilinks specification, Google has one with App Indexing, Twitter has one, and Facebook is pushing its App Links specification as a standard. Everyone says deep linking needs a standard, but no one really wants to budge on accepting one that isn’t their own.
Deeplink cofounder Noah Klausman explained that Deeplink works across all standards; URX’s Milinovich said their API is designed to work the same way. Yet Klausman also addressed the elephant in the room: Each company calls themselves a standard, but Google’s spec driving users to Google, Facebook’s to Facebook, etc., means that by definition they’re not.
Ultimately, the panelists agreed the companies at the OS level—Google with Android and Apple with iOS—are in the best position to push a standard and emerge as the ultimate winner. When you’re in charge of the OS all these apps run on and deep links are hooked into, you’re in the best position to force developer adoption.
“It would [benefit] all our companies if there was a standard,” Klausman said.
Standards are but one of the challenges facing deep links, cards or whatever other technologies may emerge to serve as the foundation of a better, smarter Web of interconnected mobile apps. The direction, though, is clear. The event ended with a remark to which both the startups and audience members immersed in this cutting-edge mobile technology all nodded agreement:
The smartphone is not very smart right now, but it will be.