Google, the worldwide leader in mobile advertising, today made another move that could help consolidate its position a little bit further. The company today announced to developers that it would be shutting down AdWhirl, a platform that let app developers switch between different ad networks on the fly. AdWhirl was a part of AdMob, acquired by the mobile ad network after a flurry of competition, just months before AdMob was acquired itself by Google for $750 million.
In a letter to developers sent out today (embedded below), Google said that they will until September 30 to decide where they would like to move their ads. It’s encouraging them to migrate to AdMob Mediation, a competing tool that it launched after the acquisition while continuing to support AdWhirl. They can also continue to use AdWhirl, if they care to use the open source code “to run their own AdWhirl service.” But Google won’t be involved with hosting or supporting it.
Predictably, some developers are not happy with the decision because they believe the timeline is too short.
“We developers understand that it might be discontinued in the future, but terminating this in three months is just too fast for us to migrate,” writes Vinh Nguyen, a developer at Mad Rabbit, who forwarded us the letter. “A lot of developers depended on most of their revenue through this product.”
Others are commenting on Google’s forums. “Some of us have used AdWhirl for 4 years and have tons of apps to update for this change,” one wrote. “When you killed off Google Ads and forced us to use AdMob at least you gave us till the end of the year. What about the users that don’t upgrade, will you continue serving them ads?”
Eric Leichtenschlag, an engineer with AdMob, notes that AdWhirl.com will also be shut down, so users will not be able to log into their accounts after September 30. For those apps that don’t migrate from the service, mediation will stop working. “This means we will return a 404 to the SDK and there will be a blank space where the ad used to be.”
Those 404s will be a thorny issue for some developers. Nguyen says AdWhirl is not just used to aggregate ad networks for apps, but distribution of those apps across different app stores. “We now have a lot of users who have downloaded our apps through these third party sites, and they are right now generating a lot of ad request (revenue) for us,” he says. “On third party sites it’s a lot harder to reach the users again for an update of our apps. This is because most these sites do not have update notification build in like with the Play Store. We are mostly depended on users to go back to the site and check for an update themselves.”
It’s a whimper of an ending for a service that was once a thorn in the side of AdMob, since it was initially used as a way for competing networks like Quattro (now part of Apple) and Jumptap (still independent) to have more leverage against the most dominant player. Until that player took AdWhirl, and its revenues, for itself, users of the mediation platform could swap in ads on their apps on the fly from a number of networks (an unlimited number, AdWhirl says on its site), a model that forces more competition in pricing.
But in the greater scheme of things, this shouldn’t really come as a surprise.
As Google continues to earn more than half of all worldwide revenues in mobile ads (in 2013, eMarketer predicts Google will make nearly $9 billion out of global sales of nearly $16 billion), it has been making a number of efforts to streamline its mobile ad operations.
That includes a rebuild of AdMob’s developer tools in May, and integrating AdMob and AdWords. And it points out that the newer system is actually better, because it covers more ad formats, better reporting (for AdMob, at least), and has better Google support built in (of course), among other things. A Google service is still a Google service, by any other name.
Dear AdWhirl by AdMob Developer,
AdWhirl has been supported by Google since 2010, when it became part of the Google family through the acquisition of AdMob. Since then, we’ve invested in helping AdMob developers serve ads in their apps from any number of ad networks through AdMob Mediation, which many developers use today. As we continue to improve AdMob Mediation, we’ve decided to retire AdWhirl, and will be discontinuing the service on 30 September 2013. The open source code for AdWhirl will still be available if anyone wants to run their own AdWhirl service.
AdMob Mediation is at no cost and more robust, with features like network-level reporting, country-level allocation and support for more ad formats. You can learn more about the specific features of AdMob Mediation here.
We encourage you to start using AdMob Mediation prior to 30 September. You’ll need an AdMob account to begin using AdMob Mediation. If you have one already you can find instructions for switching from AdWhirl here. If not, you can sign up for an AdMob account here.
The Google AdMob Team
[story updated with additional quote from developer]