Facebook Plans to Introduce Apple-Like App Store

Facebook Inc. plans to introduce an online store that lets users download software applications, similar to the bazaars that feature games and tools for users of the Apple Inc. iPhone and Google Inc.’s Android software.

The store, called App Center, is due to open in the coming weeks, Menlo Park, California-based Facebook said yesterday. It will be customized for users, similar to how Facebook’s News Feed displays content according to a person’s closest friends.

“We’re trying to solve that app discovery problem,” Malorie Lucich, a spokeswoman for Facebook, said in an interview with Bloomberg.com’s Tech Blog. “For a lot of people, it’s hard to find this stuff.”

Facebook, which next week will hold the largest-ever initial public offering for an Internet company, will use the app store model to generate a new stream of revenue, beyond online advertising. The company has started taking submissions from developers, and like Apple, Facebook will take a 30 percent cut from app-related sales.

Apple has generated more than $1.7 billion from selling apps, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, based on information in an Apple conference call in January.

Similar to Apple’s App Store, Facebook will not admit every program to its App Center. In the new service’s guidelines document, Facebook says it plans to remove apps “that don’t meet a high quality bar.”

Between Apple, Google

“Success through the App Center is tied to the quality of an app,” Aaron Brady, a Facebook software engineer, said in a statement on the company’s blog. “We use a variety of signals, such as user ratings and engagement, to determine if an app is listed in the App Center.”

Apple’s method for curating apps has been praised for its ability to keep viruses out. It has also been criticized for what some perceive as corporate censorship and for the length of time it takes to get an app approved.

Google’s Android app store, by contrast, has always been a free-for-all. Apps aren’t vetted by the company, and that has allowed bogus and malicious software to proliferate.

Facebook’s stance is somewhere in between. For the App Center, which can be accessed through the social network’s website and mobile apps, not every program will be allowed in. Developers can still build software using Facebook’s tools, and promote their apps themselves or through users’ Facebook News Feeds -- even if the programs are not approved. People can also locate Facebook apps by typing the name into the site’s search box.

The App Center will replace the Apps and Games dashboard where people currently can browse the available tools, Lucich said. Over time, an app’s “quality score” will fluctuate based on its popularity and other factors, she said.

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