Short links, deep links—Bitly now has them both.
The URL shortening service just launched a new business called Deep Links from Bitly that aims to make it much easier for users to jump directly into pages inside mobile apps. Deep links make those jumps possible by making links to the stuff inside mobile apps behave more like Web links.
Deep links are becoming increasingly important. As mobile apps become a larger part of our online browsing experience, links that redirect to the front page of an app instead of a specific internal page—say, that article you really wanted to read on Flipboard—are a huge frustration to users.
While the problem is obvious to users, the solution isn’t always obvious to app makers. According to deep-linking technology startup URX, only 28% of top mobile apps support deep linking. What’s more, most services for implementing deep linking—including URX’s own—require developers to adopt a software developer kit (SDK) to incorporate the function into their app.
Bitly, by contrast, has no SDK for deep linking, and doesn’t plan to build one, either. Instead, Bitly believes marketers will be responsible for providing the best possible experience when it comes to deep linking.
“Other places already offer a developer-centric approach,” said Matt Thomson, chief product officer at Bitly. “We’re going for a less technical audience. We’re coming from the marketers’ perspective, to help publishers try deep linking. All they have to do is give us their link locations and we’ll do all the work.”
Deep Linking For Dummies
Even as they increasingly expect deep linking capabilities, most average users have probably never heard the phrase “deep linking.” They already have a word for it—linking. The fact that mobile links require additional functionality to work like the Web links users are already used to isn’t a user problem, it’s a developer one.
For this reason, Bitly’s goal is to simplify deep linking as much as possible. Instead of requiring the publisher to integrate a redirecting and device detection system, Bitly will do it for them.
“Bitly links already receive six billion clicks a month on mobile devices,” Thomson said. “We’re just making it so those links enable deep linking as well.”
Since Bitly is providing an additional service, that means customers will have to come up with additional money to take advantage of Deep Links from Bitly. Some higher paying customers will be grandfathered in, but for most it will serve as an add-on.
“I think everyone still has the problem of explaining what deep links are,” Thomson said. “A lot of companies don’t have a strategy yet. I think we could be major player in explaining the benefit of deep linking because we deal with marketers.”
Photo by Toni Lozano