Meta wants to create a Facebook app store to compete with Apple's App Store and Google Play

Phone screen closeup showing the download page for the Facebook app in the app store.
(Image credit: Shutterstock, Meta)

Meta is preparing to let users in the EU download apps directly through Facebook ads, setting the company up as a direct competitor with Google and Apple’s digital storefronts.

The new program will start a pilot run with Android app developers later in the year, according to The Verge’s Alex Heath. The move is possibly motivated by a new regulation in the EU, dubbed the Digital Markets Act, which is due to go into effect next spring. According to the new act, Apple and Google are labeled as ‘gatekeepers’ and are required to open up their mobile platforms to alternative methods of downloading apps.

According to the pitch given by Meta to the developers taking part in the pilot, hosting the developer's Android apps and letting allowing Facebook users to download the apps directly. 

In other words, this will mean you won’t get taken immediately to the Google Play Store or Apple App Store when you click an ad for an app, as you do currently; instead, the app can just be downloaded straight onto your phone via Facebook. This could be a game, a mindfulness app, or even one of Meta's own other apps.

Meta claims that developers will see a higher rate of app installs from ads paid for on Facebook, and - somewhat shockingly - the social media giant reportedly doesn’t plan to take a cut of in-app revenue, so developers taking part in the pilot will be free to use whatever billing system they want. Entitlement to app revenue has been a major factor in recent lawsuits and regulations surrounding Apple and Google's app stores.

Cool, but... why?

Tom Channick, a Meta spokesperson, said to Heath in an email “We [Meta] have 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 people that want them.”

It’s currently unconfirmed if Meta plans on running more pilots, perhaps with the Apple App Store, though it seems like taking an initial small-scale approach with Android developers will allow the company to get a feel of how users respond to the new features.

However, it does bring some concerns that this new ease of downloads might result in a lot of sketchy apps being downloaded by less tech-savvy Facebook users.

At least when you go to your phone’s app store you can scroll down and see ratings and user feedback for an app; whereas here, it’s unclear what the interface for the instant download is going to look like, since it’ll be contained in a Facebook ad. Hopefully, as things progress with the pilot, Meta will address this potential issue. 

Muskaan Saxena
Computing Staff Writer

Muskaan is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing writer. She has always been a passionate writer and has had her creative work published in several literary journals and magazines. Her debut into the writing world was a poem published in The Times of Zambia, on the subject of sunflowers and the insignificance of human existence in comparison.

Growing up in Zambia, Muskaan was fascinated with technology, especially computers, and she's joined TechRadar to write about the latest GPUs, laptops and recently anything AI related. If you've got questions, moral concerns or just an interest in anything ChatGPT or general AI, you're in the right place.

Muskaan also somehow managed to install a game on her work MacBook's Touch Bar, without the IT department finding out (yet).