Debuts First Public-Facing Tool To Send iOS Apps From Web To Mobile, No Need To Launch iTunes

Posted: May 8, 2013 in Apps, Mobile, Startup, Technology
Tags: , , ,

20130508-204202.jpg, a mobile application discovery which just
over a year ago arrived on the iPhone as an improved
version of Apple’s “Genius,” has been quietly building
a new product over the past several months, as tides
have turned against apps which serve to recommend
or promote other apps. The new, instead of being a consumer-facing service, now offers tools
to push apps from the web to mobile devices, similar
to how users can wirelessly install apps from Google
Play to their Android phones today. The first example of this technology is rolling out
today, in the form of a Google Chrome extension that
detects when there are app links on a webpage, then
allowing you to click and send them straight from the
web to your device. You may remember the consumer-facing version of, which was pulled down for good this past
November, as one of the earlier players in the app
discovery space. Part social network, the Crosswalk
site and app previously allowed users to find and
follow friends, view trending apps, receive personalized app recommendations, and more. But, explains president Thomas McLeod,
though that service worked well for heavy-duty app
users, it never really gained mainstream appeal.
“What we ran into is that nobody cared except for
tech journalists, developers and super power users,”
he says. “We had a lot of people telling us this great stuff, but we were – for lack of a better word – in the
‘Valley bubble.’ When we looked at returning user
metrics, we found that the average person – like my
mom – never went back to” Most people, McLeod’s mom included, were generally
pretty happy with using Apple’s App Store to meet
their needs, he says. Meanwhile, Apple had begun cracking down on apps
that recommend or promote other apps – a move
which has caused its fair share of drama as of late,
when app discovery platform AppGratis was kicked
out of the App Store, accused of gaming the charts.
And just this week, Apple tightened the noose even further, reportedly booting out apps that replicate App
Store features like social sharing and search. McLeod says that Apple’s decision did stop and
make him think, even though he didn’t believe was in direct violation of the guidelines. Back at the drawing board, the company took stock in
what they had left, and realized that just as they once
were able to pull down information from mobile
devices, they could instead push apps to the phones,
too. The product they ended up with was a developer
API for web-to-mobile downloads. The API powers a button, which can be
placed on any website, as well as shortlinks that can
be shared or tweeted. When clicked, the button or link
will take users to a landing page where those clicks
are converted to app downloads. On the backend, a
suite of tools allows promoters to see how well an ad campaign has been doing, tracking things like the
time, the referring site, and UTM tags for
the separate marketing efforts. This API, still in beta, is currently being tested with
around 20 publishers, including,
which had the button live during March and April
before a site redesign. What they liked about the
button was that it allowed for cross-promotion – that
is, when end users downloaded the Cosmo app, could recommend apps for other
publications, too. Other sites now testing the button
include, (free app bundles),
and, but the larger vision is to go
after the big brands as well as the so-called “disposable” apps – like those associated with an
upcoming movie, for instance. The service offers something that fills a hole in the
Apple universe. When clicked, a window pops up
where you enter in your Apple username and
password to authenticate, and then the app is sent
over-the-air to your phone. (You need to have
automatic app downloads enabled for this to work). The experience, as noted above, is a lot like when
you send apps to your Android phone from Google
Play’s app store, except that it also allows you to
send multiple apps from one interface. McLeod didn’t want to share the technical details
regarding how this all works on the record, but says
that he doesn’t believe it’s a violation of Apple’s
Terms. “We’ll see how this all goes,” he says, on that
note. He explains that it’s like “creating a long wire
from a website to iTunes,” and it then initiates the download on your behalf. “We’re not changing the
security protocols, we’re sending the same encrypted
stuff they’re sending. We’re not storing anything, or
doing anything dangerous. We’re just moving the box
from where it is over there, to where it is over here.” The new Chrome extension, available here, is the first
public, consumer-facing example of the technology,
outside of the button’s beta testers. Once installed,
as you’re surfing the web, the button appears on any
page which offers App Store links. When clicked, you
can view a list of the apps that page offers, and then click “send to device” for the ones you want to
download – no need to launch iTunes on the desktop. At present, the extension only works with free apps,
and only those on iOS, but Android is in the works. The extension is free, and for now, the
button is as well, though the plan is to offer tiered
pricing on a subscription basis at some future point. Those interested in beta testing the button can sign
up here. is offering access to the button
to the first 500 TechCrunch readers who sign up
here: to join the beta.

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