The best part about the mobile explosion: There’s no shortage of amazing apps to try that can make your life easier.

The worst part: Handing over all your personal information to a new company every time you try one.

Facebook is trying to change that. The company introduced a new way of logging in to mobile applications on Wednesday that will let you try an application without having to hand over all your personal data.

The new feature, dubbed “anonymous login,” promises just that: If you want to test out an app but don’t want to hand over your information to a random developer, Facebook’s new feature will let you try before you buy.

“It lets you try apps without fear,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at Facebook’s f8 developer conference in San Francisco.

To make it work, each app receives a piece of unique identification code which can’t be used to tie you back to Facebook. And a Facebook spokesperson confirmed that the developer doesn’t get any personal information about the user from Facebook.

That’s potentially a great thing for regular folks who don’t want to dole out their details around the Internet, but not entirely great for developers, who gain valuable data from login information you’ve handed over. And another caveat: You won’t get the full “friend-connected” experience that the app may offer, since it isn’t pulling your information from Facebook.

Still, it’s a way for small-time companies to get more people to try their apps out and potentially convert you to a loyal user, rather than having to opt out of trying the app entirely. I look at it as a sort of test drive at a car dealership, with low up-front risk. And it could be a boon for developers who want to try and hook more people into using their apps.

Blair Reeves
Blair Reeves

One crucial battleground for Facebook right now is the brokerage of digital identity. While the company has a commanding lead in social login (about double that of Google, the next largest), FB is still vulnerable. This development will go over very well with users, who will demand this access to apps; app developers will have no choice, given user demand and Facebook's ubiquity. But it's actually a pretty crappy deal for those developers, who will essentially lose the value from users who try their apps but ditch after a few sessions.

I'd expect Google to introduce something similar very soon. Apple is also very likely to jump into this race - and as the mobile hardware platform of choice, they have some fundamental advantages too. My thoughts here:


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