IAB Tech Lab releases app-ads.txt specification

The IAB Technology Laboratory has released in beta the app-ads.txt specification, app guidance that can increase the pool of authorized digital advertising inventory while reducing fraud. Available for public comment through February 4, 2019, app-ads.txt is an extension of the original ads.txt standard that provides a mechanism for content owners to declare who is authorized to sell their inventory. With demand side platforms (DSPs), it allows buyers to confidently purchase through approved seller accounts. App-ads.txt applies this ads.txt functionality to ad transactions in mobile apps, as well as over-the-top (OTT) video apps.

In addition, app-ads.txt can help identify and block instances of unauthorized developer impersonation. The specification details how to get an app developer’s website URL from the app listing page within an app store, which should have minimal implementation burden for any app store. Publishing authorizations in an app-ads.txt file on the developer’s website will create a centralized online resource that the developer independently controls. As a beta specification, this can be implemented now and then app stores can also adopt a standardized way to make this information available.

The IAB Tech Lab encourages adoption of this beta specification for publishers and app stores, as minimal changes are expected. Not only is the specification based on one already in use, it also incorporates feedback provided from proposed mobile app-focused solution strategies released in July 2018.

“The beta release of app-ads.txt addresses an important gap in eradicating fraudulent inventory,” said IAB Tech Lab senior vice president and general manager, Dennis Buchheim. “While it took longer than expected to define a reliable, scalable approach to specifying file locations for mobile apps, the solution will not only support ads.txt but will also support other supply chain safety initiatives, such as ads.cert.”

“Fraud lives in the shadows. When the industry works together to create and adopt transparent systems for checks and balances, fraud via counterfeiting is more difficult to pull off,” said Neal Richter, CTO, Rakuten Marketing, and co-chair of the IAB Tech Lab’s OpenRTB Working Group. “App-ads.txt is another step in the right direction to reduce counterfeit app inventory and the reach of bad actors.”

Abhay Singhal, co-founder and president of InMobi Advertising Cloud, a participant in the OpenRTB working group, also welcomed the move, saying:
“Ads.txt is a simple yet effective step to drive transparency in the programmatic world. Considering that publishers and buyers have no direct contact with one another, both become susceptible to unauthorized reselling, counterfeit inventory and domain spoofing. First released in May 2017 – the ads.txt solution for website and mobile web publishers has seen tremendous success.”

You can review the new specification here.  Anyone interested can join the IAB Tech Lab OpenRTB Working Group to engage with this initiative before the spec is out of beta. Any comments or questions can be directed to openmedia@iabtechlab.com and will be distributed to the working group for review.