IAB Tech Lab unveils a proposed Ads.txt for mobile apps

Last year about this time, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Tech Lab launched its ads.txt project to prevent fraudulent selling of website ad inventory.

This week, the Tech Lab is releasing a proposed spec for extending ads.txt, which is now widely adopted, to mobile apps. The proposal is open to public comments over the next 30 days.

Essentially, SVP and General Manager Dennis Buchheim explained to me, it’s the same ads.txt, but with a pointer from apps. For web inventory, the ads.txt file, which lists those exchanges and others that are authorized to sell space on a given site’s pages, normally resides in the root folder of a website.

In the newest proposal for apps, the ads.txt file for a given app will also often reside on an associated website, with some reference from the app to the file location.

Travelocity’s app, for instance, would point to its ads.txt file on, say, the Travelocity site. In fact, Buchheim noted, the ads.txt file might be same for both the Travelocity website inventory and the web app inventory, if the sellers are the same for both.

The IAB’s proposed spec suggests three ways for that pointer to work. In one approach, it could employ a “bundled ID” that is sometimes used as an identifier in app stores. The bundled ID, in conjunction with the web domain, would point directly to the ads.txt file located in that domain.

A second approach is that the app store could provide a new API that offers the ads.txt file for each app, bypassing an accompanying web domain. Or, Buchheim suggest, there might eventually be one or more independent services that supply the ads.txt files.

In any case, he made clear that this proposed spec is “an invitation to respond” for app stores and third-party party vendors.

The link to an ads.txt file for a given app can also reside inside the OpenRTB request for an ad, so everyone in chain for an ad request can see who is authorized to sell that space.

Last month, the Tech Lab launched an aggregation service for Ads.txt.

About The Author

Barry Levine covers marketing technology for Third Door Media. Previously, he covered this space as a Senior Writer for VentureBeat, and he has written about these and other tech subjects for such publications as CMSWire and NewsFactor. He founded and led the web site/unit at PBS station Thirteen/WNET; worked as an online Senior Producer/writer for Viacom; created a successful interactive game, PLAY IT BY EAR: The First CD Game; founded and led an independent film showcase, CENTER SCREEN, based at Harvard and M.I.T.; and served over five years as a consultant to the M.I.T. Media Lab. You can find him at LinkedIn, and on Twitter at xBarryLevine.