GetJar relaunches its mobile app store with Facebook social features

(Chief executive claims ‘what users care about is what their friends are downloading)

Social features remain a blind spot for most major app stores, but independent service GetJar is hoping to steal a march on the competition with its use of Facebook Connect in today’s relaunch of its mobile site.

Users are invited to sign in with their Facebook accounts and then share details of their downloads and comments on the social network. GetJar is also providing Like and Dislike buttons on its mobile store to ensure its customers help their friends sort the app wheat from the chaff.

The decision to add Facebook Connect was partly fuelled by a recent survey conducted by GetJar, which found that only 21.6% of app downloaders actually discover those apps in the stores.

That said, only 8.8% of respondents to that survey said they discovered apps through recommendations from friends, versus 53% who discovered them ‘online’. However, of US respondents, 20% said they discovered apps through friends and family.

In any case, the GetJar chief executive, Ilja Laurs, is making the case for social discovery as a fresh alternative to traditional app store models. “Now that users can share apps with their friends on Facebook, recommendations are really a bit old school,” he says in a statement. “Our recent research clearly showed us that what consumers care about is what their friends are downloading and using, not what we as an app store think they should download.”

That’s potentially risky for a company like GetJar, whose business model has been partly based on charging developers to promote their apps in featured slots on its website and mobile portal. However, there is still room for these kinds of campaigns in a ‘promotional cluster’ near the top of the redesigned GetJar mobile site, so the two models will rub along together.

The social recommendations sit below a chart of the top apps, although one of the top navigation tabs is Friends, which switches the focus entirely to social recommendations. It takes the form of a Facebook-style news feed of what friends have been downloading, liking and disliking, and commenting on through GetJar. A sub-tab presents a list of the most popular apps among friends and also their friends on the site.

The new social features are a strong addition to GetJar, both for the benefits they will bring to users, and for viral promotion of the store itself on Facebook as it faces up to competition from new entrants to the independent app stores world such as Amazon.

The revamped GetJar site also gives more idea of how Facebook Connect could be used in stores like Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market, although they would have to be willing and able to strike a deal with Facebook first. Apple intended to use Facebook Connect in its Ping social music network from launch last year, but the feature was removed at the last minute after the tech giant failed to reach a deal with the social network.

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