May 28, 2013 · 2 minutes

As the native frameworks for trying apps before you buy them remain wedded to screenshots and written descriptions in the App Store or Google Play, independent developers are pushing ahead with a better model. Until yesterday, Melbourne, Australia, startup Kickfolio was one of the leading players, bringing interactive app experiences to the Web browser so developers have a way of advertising their wares in a format that does justice to their work.

Actually, today Kickfolio is still a leading player – that just isn’t its name anymore. The company is now called App.io, and it has announced that it has raised $1 million in seed funding, led by Quest VP, with participation from 500 Startups, Maneesh Arora, Geekcelerator, and others. Quest’s Maarten ’t Hoft, who used to be on Andy Rubin’s Android team, has joined the board.

App.io CEO Edward Dowling says the aim for the app experience, which can be tested on its homepage (or try it below), is to spread it around the Web on all sorts of media properties, especially Facebook. “We want to embed these interactive experiences wherever the users already are,” Dowling says. He claims that 12 percent of people who try an app using App.io then visit the App Store, a conversion rate that puts most forms of advertising to shame. The company makes money by charging developers a monthly fee that varies according to how many times someone clicks and interacts with the app.

App.io currently has about 3,000 customers but is restricted to iOS only. That will likely change in the coming months. The presence of ’t Hoft on the board is a fairly big indicator that Android will be an important platform for the company in the future. There it will meet stiff competition from AppSurfer, which has been around since 2011. Another potential competitor, Pieceable, was acquired by Facebook.

For now, App.io is happy in Melbourne, where it first up shop last year after going through the AngelCube accelerator program. However, it is using its funding to open an office in San Francisco, where hopes to have three people this year. The startup currently has six people on staff. Dowling said the intention from the start has been for App.io to be an American company based in the US.

“It’s about recognizing where your customers are, and where you business belongs,” he says of the move. “The goal for us is really to make the most of the opportunity of being in the US and learning from that ecosystem.”

The prospects for App.io are uncertain. While there could be a demand among developers for an affordable way to show off their apps in a more flexible format than that provided by the App Store or Google Play, it would not be surprising for Apple or Google to start integrating a similar, homebaked solution into their app stores on their own. Facebook has already demonstrated an interest in the technology by picking up Piecemeal, but that was likely just a talent acquisition. Perhaps App.io is betting that the tech is appealing enough to Apple and Google that one of them will just buy the company.

Here's a demo of App.io's tech.