Opera Software Launches Yet Another UDID Alternative For Anonymous Mobile Ad-Tracking

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Just when iOS developers had thought they had heard of every UDID replacement mechanism out there, Opera Software had to go and launch its own, too. Today, the company, best known as the maker of the Opera web browser, is introducing something it’s calling “App-Tribute” – and yes, it’s yet another system providing an alternative to the now deprecated UDID.

The UDID, an identification number that’s unique to every mobile Apple device, had been previously used by mobile developers for advertising and user tracking purposes. Following what can perhaps be seen as overuse, and in the worst cases, abuse, Apple announced it was ending support for UDIDs six months ago, in an effort to address ongoing privacy concerns as well as to head off future complaints. UDIDs, unlike web browser cookies, for example, can’t be deleted by users themselves, and users have no options to opt-out from tracking save for simply not using mobile apps.

Recently, Apple began rejecting apps utilizing UDIDs from the iTunes App Store. Meanwhile, a number of workarounds and alternatives have presented themselves for use.

And now, you can add Opera’s latest to that growing list.

The company is launching “App-Tribute” via its advertising subsidiaries AdMarvel, Mobile Theory, and 4th Screen Advertising. However it was Mobile Theory, a recent Opera acquisition, that came up with the solution. With App-Tribute, like many of the other alternatives, the goal is to protect consumer privacy while still allowing developers the ability to collect user analytics.

The product can track and attribute downloads without those having any form of ID mechanism to identify the user. Nor does App-Tribute depend on any ID or the transmission of that information between apps, networks and advertisers, like some of the other alternative solutions.

The system contains two parts: the App-Tribute Advertiser SDK and the App-Tribute Publisher SDK. With the former, developers can track successful downloads and subsequent installs of an application, but again, without using any personally identifiable information to do so. Its only server-side communication involves tracking and validating the app installs.

The Publisher SDK, meanwhile, can then track the promotion of apps as well as anonymous user interest in designated apps. It also provides the proper attribution to the publishers that promoted and facilitated the downloads of the promoted apps without handing off personally identifiable information in the process.

“Since the launch of iOS in 2007 and Android in 2009, we’ve watched both sides of the industry – both developers who want to advertise their apps and those that want to monetize their app traffic — struggle with the thorny issue of promoting and tracking app downloads. We’ve seen schemes that attempted to solve the problem through device and user tracking, many of which raise troubling questions around accuracy and consumer privacy,” explains Mahi de Silva, EVP of Consumer Mobile at Opera Software as to challenges that led up to the development of this system.

He also says that the new solution was developed alongside Opera’s publisher customers, and is now being used by some of its and AdMarvel’s customers. Opera can’t specifically name them, but describes the apps as “a personal radio service” and “some leading mobile game publishers.”

The Publisher SDK is also being bundled with AdMarvel’s own SDK, for its customers’ use. AdMarvel’s cloud-based ad platform currently reaches over 150 million smartphone users across over 8,000 mobile sites and apps.

Opera says more details will become available on its Advertising site at www.opera.com/advertising, but that information has yet to be posted at the time of publishing.

UPDATE: Opera says it has posted information about the solution to the website at: admarvel.com/app-tribute. We also asked the company if it could describe the App-Link system in more detail.

Opera says the system fits more closely into the “pasteboard” method (more on that here), but there are some differences. When someone clicks an app download ad, the phone stores the app information, which creative to attribute the download to, and the first time it occurred. Opera doesn’t know anything else about the device or user, though. When the download happens, the information from the pasteboard is sent to Opera’s server. If no attribution on an app download happens, then nothing is sent to the server. In addition, all the attribution takes place on the device, not the server.