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Welcome To The Server Side


jamesaveryddtData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by James Avery, CEO at Adzerk.

Online advertising owes its rapid growth to JavaScript tags. Finally, without serious code changes, publishers could copy and paste JavaScript and make money from ads quickly. Advances like header bidding helped drive even greater returns.

However, JavaScript is now the root of many issues in the ad industry.

Take ad blockers. The No. 1 reason people install them is because of the performance hit caused by too many JavaScript ad tags on the page. While ad blocking isn’t the death of advertising by any means, it has had a meaningful impact on publisher revenues.

Mobile users are even more sensitive to JavaScript issues, as excessive ad code not only slows down the page but also eats into their precious bandwidth. Google’s AMP doesn’t allow JavaScript for this very reason.

JavaScript also enables fraud and malware. Because the call is coming from the client, you can’t verify that the publisher approved it, so toolbars and browsers can impersonate publishers and replace the ads. Without controlling what’s rendering, even the best sites get bit by malware.

JavaScript also allows advertisers and third parties to place and read cookies from the user, causing privacy issues and data leakage for publishers.

Welcome to the server side. It’s time to move online advertising to the server side and away from JavaScript. This will slash the number of ad tags and calls, improving speed and helping stem the growth of ad blockers.

Plus, it’ll be goodbye to malware. By being able to whitelabel URLs, publishers leave no room for malware to jump in. It also makes a solution like secure ads layer easier to implement, which will further fight ad fraud.

Fortunately, this switch is happening. Many native ads are already being served by server-to-server API-based ad calls instead of JavaScript. Anti-ad blockers also use server-to-server proxying to circumvent ad-blocking software. Even Google is moving header bidding to the server.


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I predict that in the next three years, more than 90% of ad calls will move to the server. I know this is bold, but it seems inevitable. When it does happen, those companies that don’t adopt the trend will be left behind, not unlike we saw with header bidding, which left many companies – most notably Rubicon Project – wishing they had reacted sooner.

Follow Adzerk (@adzerk) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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