Appsfire, a mobile application marketing platform, is introducing its own solution for the issue created by Apple’s decision to phase out developer access to the UDID (unique device identifier) on iOS devices. It’s called OpenUDID. As you may have guessed by the name, this is an open source UDID initiative.
In other words, it’s an attempt at creating a non-proprietary solution that aims to replace all that was lost, and in which all stakeholders can participate.
The change to UDID access was noted in a recent set of iOS5 release notes, where it was listed as “deprecated.” The UDID, for those unaware, is an alphanumeric string unique to each Apple device, which is currently used by mobile ad networks, game networks, analytics providers, developers and app testing systems, like TestFlight, for example. In some cases, developers are even using the UDID to verify whether users are accessing their app from a new device.
By removing access to the UDID in iOS5, Apple has thrown an entire ecosystem into chaos.
Last week, mobile gaming network OpenFeint introduced a its UDID alternative called OFUID, which provides a solution for the gaming developer community. Users who opt-in to OpenFeint’s new single-sign on system thereby give the developer access to this OFUID, a universal account system for the gaming network’s cross-platform users. The OFUID lets developers track users’ behavior across apps, and helps with their ad targeting efforts.
But this system was criticized as being an incomplete UDID replacement, and for its proprietary nature.
The newly proposed OpenUDID will be different.
As Appsfire is both a developer of consumer apps and an ad network, we sought a UDID replacement but were not interested in a solution owned by any single provider. We also foresaw a fragmented market where UDID management was operated by multiple providers with no cooperation between them. To help ourselves and thousands of other mobile app developers, we began working on the OpenUDID open source initiative.
The company says that it wants to work with others to provide a reliable proxy and replacement for a universal unique device identifier on a per device basis. It also wants to enable OpenUDID to be accessed by any app, supply open-source code to generate and access the OpenUDID for iOS (and later, Android), and incorporate, from the beginning, a system that will enable users to opt-out.
That latter requirement is in there because the new system should “match Apple’s initial intent,” explains AppsFire. Apple isn’t saying why it made the decision to remove the UDID. It may have made the change in response to previous privacy concerns or as a way to pre-empt future concerns. But in either case, it’s clear the company is taking a step to further respect its users’ privacy via the UDID removal. The new open source system should respect Apple’s decision in the matter.
Appsfire has published a simple Objective-C class that provides a one-line replacement to take advantage of the OpenUDID on github. All mobile app developers are invited to join in the testing process now, the company says.