Meta is planning to let people in the EU directly download apps through Facebook ads, setting the company up to eventually compete with Google and Apple’s app stores.
The new type of ad is set to start as a pilot with a handful of Android app developers as soon as later this year, I’ve learned. Meta sees an opening to try this thanks to new regulation in the EU called the Digital Markets Act (DMA) that is expected to go into effect next spring. It deems Apple and Google as “gatekeepers” and requires that they open up their mobile platforms to alternative methods of downloading apps.
Android technically allows sideloading already, though Google makes it difficult by coupling its in-app billing and licensing with the Play Store, along with the scary warnings it shows when someone tries to download an Android app from another source. Even still, Meta clearly thinks it’s safer to try its test first on Android rather than Apple’s iOS.
Meta’s pitch to developers participating in the pilot is that, by hosting their Android apps and letting Facebook users download them directly without being kicked out to the Play Store, they’ll see higher conversion rates for their app install ads. At least initially, Meta doesn’t plan to take a cut of in-app revenue from participating apps, so developers in the pilot could still use whatever billing systems they want.
“New options would add more competition in this space”
A spokesperson for Meta, Tom Channick, confirmed the plan to me in an emailed statement: “We’ve always been interested in helping developers distribute their apps, and new options would add more competition in this space. Developers deserve more ways to easily get their apps to the people that want them.” Google didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Meta isn’t alone in wanting to become a distributor of mobile apps when the EU’s DMA goes into effect. In March, Microsoft said it hoped to launch an alternative app store for games on iOS and Android in Europe next year.