Time To Replace Apple’s UDID

“Now Serving Mobile” is a column focused on the audience-buying opportunity in mobile advertising.

Jennifer Lum is President and Co-founder of Adelphic Mobile.

Apple is hosting its annual World Wide Developers Conference this week in San Francisco and there is speculation it will announce significant updates – a few of which could have a big impact on the mobile industry. Will there be an update on the UDID?  Many in the industry hope so, including myself.

“What is a UDID anyway?” you ask. It’s Apple’s Unique Device Identifier – an alphanumeric string unique to each iOS device based on various hardware details.  (A good primer on UDID can be found here.) It’s used to identify, track and target users for mobile advertising and analytics.  The privacy concerns surrounding UDID stem from the fact that it is tied to a single device, it can’t be deleted or duplicated, and although anonymous, UDID could be combined with additional data that would allow a user to be identified.

In fact, in March 2012, Apple started rejecting apps from the App Store if they accessed and tracked UDIDs without user consent.  Unfortunately, Apple’s suppression of UDID has impacted iOS app developers.

For its own sake, let alone developers, it is time that Apple find a new UDID solution. The overall app-driven, device experience for consumers drives strong, high-margin, Apple hardware sales, after all. And without a UDID-like solution for developers, they cannot track and measure their client strategies throughout the conversion funnel to acquire users profitably.

Enter Facebook

The solution for Apple may lie with Facebook, which just launched App Center and mobile-only Sponsored Stories on iOS, Android and the Web.  App Center has game-changing potential for the mobile ecosystem. UDID and its attendant privacy concerns may be rendered largely irrelevant.

The ability for Facebook users to browse through App Center based on relevance by friends who use an app rather than number of installs is both personalized and effective. There is opportunity for the Facebook ID to become a standard in mobile as companies incorporate the Open Graph as an authentication tool for their mobile websites and apps across all platforms – Apple, Android, Windows, etc.  I’d argue that it’s time for Facebook and Apple to partner on a standard method of identification.

Beyond the UDID, the overall mobile advertising ecosystem must also address several, fundamental issues…

  • Mobile advertising must enable marketers to reach their desired users or audience segments in the right context, time and place. Untargeted reach through a gaggle of mobile ad networks is not an answer.
  • Mobile media is consumed in mobile web browsers and in mobile apps. This bifurcation needs a link to bring efficient audience buying across both of these mobile channels.
  • A user may have multiple mobile devices, different platforms, OS’s, and so on.  Here the login is critical. Users have the same login across devices enabling the potential for addressability.

This is a very exciting time in mobile.  With a couple of key moves by industry leaders, cross-platform marketing solutions to enable marketers to reach and engage targeted audiences on-the-go is entirely possible. Most importantly, the consumer’s experience improves through more relevant advertising.

Follow Jennifer (@jenniferlum) and AdExchanger.com (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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