Deep Linking

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Deep Linking

Deep links are now being used in ways that obscure information from consumers.

Deep mobile linking has been around since the beginning of smartphones, and it makes it easier to find and share data across all of the apps in your phone. Deep links are now being used in ways that obscure information from consumers.

In 2019, Yelp restaurant listings showed accurate direct contact information within its mobile app, but when a customer clicked through they were deep-linked through to order on the Grubhub app. Even if customers bypassed the app and wanted to dial the number, the app instead routed them through a Grubhub-owned number, which allowed Grubhub to categorize the interaction as a “marketing call” and to charge restaurants a hefty commission fee.

There are three kinds of deep links: traditional, deferred and contextual. Traditional deep links reroute you from one app or site to another: If you click on a Baltimore Sun link someone posts on Twitter, theoretically it should automatically open in the Baltimore Sun app, as long as you have it installed.

Deferred deep links either link straight to content if the app is installed, or to an app store for you to download the app first. Contextual deep links offer much more robust information—they take you from site to app, app to site, site to site or app to app, and they can also include personalized information. This is what happened with the Yelp and Grubhub example, though the process was purposely hidden from consumers.