A Dive Into The Deep...Links.

What are deep links?

“In the context of the World Wide Web, deep linking is the use of a hyperlink that links to a specific, generally searchable or indexed, piece of web content on a website rather than the website’s home page.” -Wikipedia

The technology behind the World Wide Web and Hypertext Transfer Protocol doesn’t have a distinction between “deep” links and any other links — all links function the equally.

According to the World Wide Web Consortium Technical Architecture Group, “any attempt to forbid the practice of deep linking is based on a misunderstanding of the technology, and threatens to undermine the functioning of the Web as a whole”.

We deal with these everyday, and because they are expected, they are second nature to use.

Mobile Deep Linking

In the context of mobile apps, deep linking consists of using a uniform resource identifier (URI) that links to a specific location within a mobile app rather than simply launching the app.

You’ve probably had instances like this pop up…

Mobile Deep Link

Mobile deep linking is HUGE and at times…annoying. Nevertheless, it’s not going away. With mobile deep linking you can get bounced between a browser and app, or between apps.

Contextual Deep Linking

A form of deep linking for mobile apps that links to specific content within an app, rather than a generic welcome screen for that app. Where basic mobile deep linking typically only allows you to deep link to content in apps you’ve already downloaded, contextual deep linking allows you to pass information through the app store. Referring information is passed through both the App Store (iOS) and Google Play, bringing the user to the content of the links within the app whether or not the app has been previously installed.

- An aspect of mobile deep linking. It describes the principle of deep linking into an app that is not yet installed. In this case, deep linking will be “deferred” until the application will be installed by the user. This implies that clicking (or otherwise invoking) the deep link causes:

1. An app store to open (Google Play/IOS or Windows App Store depending on the user’s device) to enable the user to install the app

2. Once the app is installed, the link is invoked with its original URL and parameters so that the newly installed app can handle the invocation.

A Shallow Dive into URIs

URI (Uniform Resource Identifier)

URI vs URL

URIs and URLs are closely related. Because of this there is some confusion that comes along with it. When we break it down, a URI can be a name, locator, or both — while a URL is just a locator.

Not all URIs are URLs because a URI could be solely a name instead of a locator.

URI vs URL

Spotify artist URIs

Spotify URI example.

spotify:artist:5MbNzCW3qokGyoo9giHA3V

spotify:artist:4LEiUm1SRbFMgfqnQTwUbQ

Other example URIs

Try them in your phone!

twitter://

facebook://

medium://

Some Pros and Cons for deep linking

pro

  • smoother transition for the user
  • removes a step from the transaction process
  • retains user attention (by up to 2x in the first 30 days)
  • great for marketing (shopping cart → personalized email drip campaigns, new user sign ups, and so on)

con —

  • Linked-to sites can lose income since their revenues are often tied to the number of viewers who pass through their home page.
  • Unlike deep links on the web, where the link format is standardized based on HTTP guidelines, mobile deep links do not follow a consistent format. This causes confusion in development because different sets of links are required to access the same app on a different mobile operating system.

While there is a vast sea of different forms of deep links, URIs, URLS, URNs, Universal Links, etc, etc. I hope this article provided you with a basic understanding of deep links and URIs.

@brettsaxon