Facebook is poised to join the ranks of Apple, Google and Microsoft as it is allegedly working on its very own app store.
Why? It's the company's worst-case scenario plan in the event it becomes embroiled in a serious dispute with Google that would result in its Android app getting kicked out of the Play Store.
The news comes courtesy of The Information, which reports that Facebook has been preparing "contingency measures" secretly so that its applications are operable on Android-powered devices even when people do not get it from the Play Store. The publication cites people with knowledge of the secret strategy as its sources of information.
"Facebook's goal is to be ready in case it has an intractable conflict with Google, which operates the Android mobile operating system, over future rules governing how apps can function on Android," reports The Information.
The social networking site, however, has no immediate plans to part ways with Google as the relationship between the two is far from rocky, at least on the surface.
According to the publication, the relationship between the two is strained and has been so for years now. As a result, Facebook has several contingency plans up its sleeve so that if ever it gets debarred from Google's Play Store – which means no in-app purchases, app updates or push notifications either – it will still be operational on Android devices.
Why would Google be tempted to show Facebook the door? As the report points out, a source familiar with a one-time Facebook experiment has let on that the company has "tested the loyalty and patience of Android users by secretly introducing artificial errors that would automatically crash the app for hours at a time."
The experiment was designed to test what it would take for an Android user to bypass the Facebook app completely. Such mishaps with Android apps would reflect poorly on Google and further fuel differences with Facebook.
Facebook, therefore, has the notion of stepping away completely from the Play Store in the event things become unpleasant with Google and the partnership falters. With its own app store, Facebook will be forearmed to distribute services directly.
Facebook could be contemplating that Google may start charging it for services such as notifications in the long term and, therefore, is making alternate arrangements.
Reportedly, Facebook has already designed a process whereby it can offer app updates and notifications without having to go through the Play Store to do so. Currently, Android users can only update the Facebook app via the Play Store.
The Information also lets on that Facebook made its Android app unavailable to users in a "small country" for a week. Instead, these users were directed to a Web link where they could download the Android app for Facebook.
So how did this experiment fare? The report reveals that "people did it; it wasn't disastrous," which indicates that the test was not a resounding success.
According to the publication, Facebook could potentially also use the Oculus VR app store, which comes preinstalled on select Samsung smartphones to allow users to install and update the Facebook for Android app from there as well.
Alternately, Facebook could work directly in tandem with OEMs to have its app preloaded on the handsets.
Whether the Facebook app store will become a reality in the near future remains to be seen. Considering Facebook also has three other popular apps – WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger – in its arsenal, it remains to be seen if these will also transition to its intended store from the Google Play Store.
Photo: Frank de Kleine | Flickr