Your All in One Guide to Universal Links
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.
Universal Links point to mobile web content, as well as in-app content. When clicked, a universal link will determine whether the app is installed on the user's phone. If the user has the app installed, the link will immediately direct the user into the app. If not, the user will be sent to a mobile web page,which can be (and is often) the App Store. These links allow developers to entice new users to download their apps for a better experience.A Technical Look at Universal Links
Few major mobile applications support the use of Apple’s Universal Links because they would lose major attribution data to Apple. Companies such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest do not support Universal Links. This forces developers to create a complicated work around to link off of third party sites used to promote their products.
Wrapping links in redirects is how almost all email click data is tracked. Universal links cannot be wrapped in redirects to provide functionality. As such, Universal Links cannot be used in email campaigns without loss of tracking data.
Universal Links functionality cannot provide adequate and complete attribution data to developers. Universal links can not track and attribute a user through the install process. This prevents developers from getting key insights and data on a new users' interactions with their app. Universal Links lack deferred deep linking functionality. The lack of deferred deep linking breaks a new user's experience, making it harder to increase conversions and retention rates.
Branch makes Universal Links universal. We have worked hard to ensure that Branch links will work across all third party apps. Branch links work on all platforms, and even provide attribution data across platforms—through the install process and from email, without loss of context.