Super Bowl Sunday is no stranger to surprises. With brands spending countless millions on Super Bowl ad campaigns, doing the unexpected or revealing something new on America's biggest day in sport is a no-brainer.

One of yesterday's surprises came courtesy of an ad Paramount Pictures ran for the new Star Trek movie, Star Trek: Into Darkness.

At the end of the ad, viewers are encouraged to "See The Movie First", and are directed to download a mobile app to find out more. The URL?

The domain name is, perhaps not surprisingly, owned by the operator of the world's most prominent app store, Apple. According to CNET's Josh Lowensohn, the domain was previously owned by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who gifted it to Steve Jobs and Apple after the company announced the launch of the App Store.

Land grab, or land grant?

Now, it appears that Apple is ready to allow app developers to take advantage of that gift.

Apple's iOS developer documentation has been updated with an entry, How can I create easy-to-read short links to the App Store for my apps and company?, which seems to indicate that developers will be able to create their own vanity URLs for their apps, as well as for their companies. That, for obvious reasons, could lead to a land grab as developers seek to associate their apps with a vanity URL that matches the app name or, if permitted, a potentially SEO-friendly vanity URL containing terms relevant to an app.

But developers shouldn't get too excited yet, as it's not clear that they will have full control over their vanity URLs. Apple's documentation states:

These App Store Short Links are provided as a convenience and are not guaranteed to link to a particular app or company. Be sure to test your URLs before using them in any marketing or public materials.

According to TechCrunch's sources, it may even be that the vanity URLs "will be provided by Apple on a developer's behalf," which would be more a land grant than a land grab.

Whatever the case, provided that they're widely accessible as appears will be the case, vanity URLs are bound to be popular with app developers, and Paramount Pictures Star Trek Super Bowl ad likely won't be the last commercial to feature one.

Patricio Robles

Published 4 February, 2013 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (2)


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd

I think developers are becoming less enamoured of Apple.

Why would anyone risk building their own brand on a foundation that is controlled by spomeone else and can be taken away at a moment's notice!

Problems for Developers: Google shows

> Once an App is submitted there is no guarantee that it would ever see the light of day. Apple has been known to reject Apps for whimsical reasons, and is often known to put their own commercial interests first.

Consumers have liked the Android apps space:

> Angry birds, for example, is free on Chrome, where you have to pay money to buy it on the App Store. (12 months ago)

over 5 years ago


Andrew Moore

Thanks for highlighting this. It does currently appear to be a grant of a url based on the name of your app, rather than choosing a url for your app. The other bummer about this is if you don't have iTunes on your machine, using the vanity url will take you to a link to download iTunes rather than to the web equivalent of your app's App Store page. For this reason, I can't see the SEO benefit of it yet.

over 5 years ago

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