In August 2011, Apple announced it was going to deprecate the Unique Device Identifier (UDID) throwing the industry into a scramble. Last week Apple officially announced that it would no longer accept apps that use UDIDs as of May 1st, effectively requiring developers to use other tracking methods. According to the Verge, some apps have already been rejected for using UDID as far back as March 2012.
While Apple has not provided an official reason why the company is deprecating UDID, it is likely related to privacy concerns as users cannot opt out of this form of tracking. Ad networks and/or other mobile focused advertising or analytics companies could use the information they collect and attach it to a UDID for targeting purposes. This would make the UDID personally identifiable and not compliant with Apple, COPPA, and perhaps even the FTC amongst other organizations.
Since announcing that UDID would be deprecated, Apple has launched IDFA (Apple’s Identifier for Advertising), an ID that can be used in similar fashion, but gives users the option to opt out. IDFA is compliant with Apple’s own guidelines, as well as COPPA and the FTC, and offers better privacy options for consumers. While this may seem beneficial for consumers, users who do opt out could potentially have a worse experience when viewing advertisements, as the ads will not be targeted and personalized.
The deprecation of UDID is a larger problem for the industry, as the majority of ad networks use it to track, target and optimize. Out of 79 major publishers and networks that pass identifiers, 35.44% support IDFA and 72.15% pass UDID (only 5.06% pass UDID exclusively). Also, out of the 72.15% that pass UDID, 92.98% support at least one alternative. Because such a large percentage of ad networks already support alternatives, transitioning completely away from UDID at this point should not be very painful to the industry. However, those developers utilizing UDID need to remove it as soon as possible to comply with the May 1st deadline, avoiding possible rejection by Apple.
Our MobileAppTracking platform does not support UDID by default. Some of our earliest customers may remember that Version 0 of our SDK supported UDID by default, but very early in the product life cycle we moved to deprecating UDID as Apple did. We recognize that Apple controls their ecosystem, and it is critical to follow their lead. As a result, we built our next SDK without UDID while still providing the flexibility for advertisers to choose how they want to track. Now that Apple is completely deprecating UDID, our SDK will no longer support hardcoding and passing the identifier, and developers for iOS must choose the options that work best for themselves, their advertising partners, and their users – such as Apple’s IDFA identifier.
We invite you to take a look at at our methodologies for attributing installs. And if you’re a developer, check out how MobileAppTracking can help you track your app’s performance using your choice of identifiers.
Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.