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Microsoft Experiments with Advanced Deep-linking Technology

Tim Maytom

microsoft ulinkA team at Microsoft Research is working on a solution to the problem of losing your place within a mobile app and struggling to find your way back, creating a mechanism that would enable you to bookmark app pages in the same way as web URLs.

The solution, called uLink, would use a version of mobile deep-linking technology, enabling users to save links to app pages or search previously-seen pages which they wish to return to using an app browsing history function.

The project, which has been built on Android, currently comprises of two separate apps, one to save bookmarks, and another to track the user's history. Users can save pages within apps simply by shaking their phone, and even when the app has been closed down, return to the same page through the uLink Bookmarks app.

Links can be shared with other users, or marked as favourites, and even individual clicks or searches can be bookmarked for later. The uLink technology also remembers that state in which the page was bookmarked, so users can return to read articles where they left them, or save transactions halfway through if they are interrupted.

Even if a link wasn't saved, the uLink History app enables users to search across multiple apps using keywords, tracking down hotels that they looked at in a variety of travel apps, for example.

The uLink system is a considerable advance on existing deep-linking technology, which requires considerable effort on the developer side, only tends to cover a small selection of locations within the app, and is defined statically by the developers, rather than selected based on an individual consumer's needs and interests.

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