Look! Apple just released a new product during the Super Bowl. Actually, it’s a new product for App Store developers – short “AppStore.com” vanity URLs. The domain made a grand public appearance at the end of the ad for the new Star Trek movie, which pointed viewers to Appstore.com/StarTrekApp instead of, perhaps, Facebook.com/StarTrekMovie or the movie’s homepage, which is the kind of link that usually gets this prime spot in TV advertising.
Developers will now receive their shortened URL names when they submit their apps to either the iTunes App Store or the Mac App Store, according to Apple Developer documentation on the matter, which was updated on January 31 with info about the new URLs:
You can also create easy-to-read links to your app using App Store Short Links, which use the AppStore.com base URL plus a specific form of your app or company name. This provides a simple way for users to find your apps on the App Store directly from your website or marketing campaigns. These short links are ideal for use in offline communications materials like print ads, TV spots, app trailers, radio ads and billboards.
Domain names can also point to either the company itself (e.g. http://appstore.com/gameloft) or the app (e.g. http://appstore.com/wheresmyperry), Apple says.
These new vanity URLs could quickly turn into a land grab in the crowded App Store, which now has some 800,000 mobile applications available in the iOS App Store alone. That competition is something that Apple has prepared for, though. The company says that in the case of name conflicts or other errors, URLs with multiple results like appstore.com/airhockey, will direct users to a search page. Developers are encouraged to come up with unique names for their apps instead to prevent this problem from occurring. That’s likely why the Star Trek trailer pointed to “StarTrekApp” and not just “StarTrek.” (Well, that and also because of all the marketing experiments taking place within the app.)
Note: see updated section below for more info on this.
Currently, the domain name http://www.appstore.com redirects users to Apple.com (after a brief Easter Egg!), but the URL without the “www” opens up the iTunes App Store or the Mac App Store, depending on the app in question. Previously, short links were available using the itunes.com URL. AppStore.com will now replace itunes.com in this case.
UPDATE: After checking with a couple of App Store developers and sources inside Apple, it sounds like the new vanity URLs will not be able to be configured to whatever the developer wants them to read, but will rather be provided by Apple on a developer’s behalf. This conflicts CNET’s and our original reports on the matter. It’s confusing because of the way the developer documentation reads at present (see excerpt above, for example). This article has been updated to reflect that info. As always, we’ve reached out to Apple for additional confirmation, and will update if we hear back.