Microsoft Research project uLink brings the equivalent of web URLs to mobile apps


20, 2016

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Web URLs play an important role in the way we interact with websites. Be it navigating to one web page from another, bookmarking a page, or sharing it with others, web deep links are so important for us to explore the web. The same experiences are not possible with individual pages inside mobile apps, since mobile apps do not have links equivalent to web deep links(URLs). Yes, Mobile deep links are available, but they still lack many important properties of web deep links. Unlike web links, mobile deep links need significant developer effort, cover a small number of predefined pages, and are defined statically to navigate to a page for a given link, but not to dynamically generate a link for a given page.

To solve this problem, Microsoft Research is introducing their new project called uLink. uLink brings the equivalent of web URLs to mobile apps. With uLink, users can bookmark links to app pages, and even search previously-seen app pages with content of interest. Also, uLink requires minimal developer effort and allows user defined dynamic links.

uLink is implemented as an application library, which transparently tracks data- and UI-event-dependencies of app pages, and encodes the information in links to the pages; when a link is invoked, the information is utilized to recreate the target page quickly and accurately. uLink also employs techniques, based on static and dynamic analysis of the app, that can provide feedback to users about whether a link may break in the future due to, e.g., modifications of external resources such as a file the link depends on. We have implemented uLink on Android. Our evaluation with 34 (of 1000 most downloaded) Android apps shows that compared to existing mobile deep links, uLink requires minimal developer effort, achieves significantly higher coverage, and can provide accurate user feedback on a broken link.

To know more about this Microsoft Research project, check out this research paper.

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