In 2015, Apple introduced Universal Links on iOS 9 as its solution to deep linking and convoluted URI schemes. Universal Links serve as standard web links (i.e., www.branch.io), but point to a website page and content in the app. This standard was invented to provide developers with a graceful fallback if the app was not installed on a user's phone, and to remove URI schemes from the mobile ecosystem.
Before Universal Links, the primary mechanism to open up an app when it was installed was redirecting to an app’s URI scheme in Safari. This put the routing logic in Safari, but there was no way to check if the app was installed or not. This meant that developers would try to call the URI scheme 100% of the time, in the off chance that the app was installed, then fallback gracefully to the App Store when not using a timer.
Universal Links were intended to fix this. Instead of opening up Safari first when a link is clicked, iOS will check if a Universal Link has been registered for the domain associated with the link, then check if the corresponding app is installed. If the app is currently installed, it will be opened. If it’s not, Safari will open and the http(s):// link will load.
Functionally, Universal Links allows you have a single link that will either open your app or open your mobile site. Here is a Guide to Implementing Universal Links.
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