Two needs for deep linking

April 15th, 2015

What are Deep Links? Scott Rosenberg recently wrote a piece on Backchannel on Medium about Deep Links. He wrote:

Deep linking means to bore a wormhole-tunnel that hops you directly from a specific spot in one app to a spot in another, no side trip to a browser or a home screen needed.

You get it. If you have Swarm and Foursquare or Facebook and Messenger installed you get pushed from one application to another all the time. Facebook forces you to send private messages via Messenger and Foursquare forces you to check-in via Swarm. So, if you’re in one app and need to do one of those tasks it “deep links” you from one application to another.

Sort of like a hyperlink on the web goes from one web page to another.

Rosenberg goes on to state why he thinks they’ve failed (so far). But I have just two reasons;

  • they need a new name
  • they aren’t discoverable

Deep Links? Terrible name. What about App Links? I’ll leave the naming to someone else but I do not think the links are all that deep so please let’s ditch that word. They are, in my opinion, as deep as a web link. Hyperlinks are one, two, three clicks into a web site if you were to start from a site’s home page. A “deep link” is one, two, three taps into an app. So why is one any deeper than the other?

The second problem is that they aren’t discoverable. They can’t easily be found, written, and shared. You may see one from time-to-time. For example, if you click on a Periscope link on Twitter, while on your iOS device, you will be asked to open Periscope to view the live video stream. This is a “deep link”. And, the “URL” for the deep link looks sort of familiar but also foreign and weird. It is typically something like pscp://broadcast/2034390

To me that reads; open Periscope to this broadcast. 

Wouldn’t it be cool if I could hand-write some Periscope links to send people to one of my broadcasts? A friend’s broadcast? Or my profile? I asked Periscope about this 3 days ago on Twitter. No response from them. Boo.

I think if “deep links” had a new name and were easily written and sharable we’d see a huge increase in their usage.

Note: I found Rosenberg’s Medium piece via Jeremy Keith.