AppNexus and Rubicon Project last month announced the creation and launch of Prebid.org an organisation dedicated to the development and promotion of open-source header bidding solutions.

“A fragmented header bidding landscape poses a great risk to the industry,” said Michael Richardson, Product Line Manager, AppNexus and Chairman of Prebid.org. “Rather than independently competing, duplicating efforts, and wasting resources, we can push for fair competition and better results as a team. The collaboration around Prebid.org by industry partners has been incredible, showing it to be the pragmatic path forward.”

Header bidding is a technique created to offer publishers a more efficient way of working with programmatic vendors, equipping them to improve their monetisation strategies in an unbiased environment. We asked Paul Gubbins, a London based ad tech consultant who we have featured on Which-50 in the past to provide a layman’s description of header bidding. He told us, “Publishers can ask all advertisers at the same time to bid for their ad placements, rather than sequentially, auctions happen in milliseconds so speed is everything.”

And Jonas Jaanimagi,  an executive consultant and the former head of Media Strategy and Operations at REA Group added to definition by saying,  “Header bidding enables publishers to simultaneously access more auctions, thereby increasing demand via more bids. However, “,  he noted, “Buyers often have to bid multiple times for the same inventory.”

Meanwhile, Paolo Modolo, an account director at AppNexus in Sydney wrote to us via Linkedin that header bidding is basically a monetisation solution which eliminates the inefficient hierarchy of the waterfall. “It ensures that every demand partner gets a chance to bid on every impression, and increases yield for publishers by allowing greater competition.”

Continuous updates

As opposed to proprietary technologies, open-source header bidding solutions are updated on a continuous basis by a multitude of industry players – the Prebid.org community currently spans 81 demand partner adapters, 5 analytics providers, and 191 individuals who contribute code to the project.

The collaborative nature of the organisation instills transparency and accountability into the ecosystem. It also enables the Prebid solutions to adapt quickly to market and publisher needs, claim its advocates.

The initiative as a collaborative effort of industry partners, and say Prebid.org is open to all parties advocating for unbiased and efficient monetisation solutions and a digital advertising ecosystem that thrives through fair competition.

In joining Prebid.org, partners have to commit to a Code of Conduct containing directives for header bidding wrapper mechanics, data and transparency, and user experience.

We asked Pieter de Zwart, President of Prebid.org and VP Engineering at Rubicon Project how independence could be ensured given the project seems to have been driven by Rubicon Project and Appnexus.

“From a governance standpoint, Prebid.org will be run by all of its members through board representation. Though it is only Rubicon Project and AppNexus right now, we are actively expanding membership in the near future, so stay tuned for updates in this area. ”

According to de Zwart “From an execution standpoint, Prebid.org is built much like the Apache Software Foundation: the board is responsible for creating the different verticals (Prebid.js, Prebid Server, Prebid Mobile, Prebid Tools), but once created, each initiative is managed by the Project Management Committee itself. This structure creates an environment where the contributors are the ones managing the roadmap and feature set. Being open-source allows for anyone to contribute, and therefore there is no process for Rubicon Project or AppNexus to enforce their vision.”

The parties are stressing the open source nature of the initiative and de Zwart told Which-50, “The great thing about open source software is that anyone can use it, tweak it and submit changes. This has been a very popular model in software engineering. Take web servers for example: nearly 70 percent of the world’s websites operate on top of open-source web servers (Nginx and Apache’s httpd). ”

He said these systems were built through community involvement and contributions. “Our goal with Prebid.org is to foster the same environment, where each codebase is managed by a team of people from a variety of companies, and whose goal is only to reduce friction in the marketplace and improve performance for both buyers and sellers.”

“PubMatic and AOL/Oath are both good examples of this (outside of Rubicon Project and AppNexus): they have also developed “enterprise” versions of the Prebid.js wrapper that are based on the core principles of Prebid.js but provide additional ancillary features for their specific publisher use-cases,” he said.

According to Kershaw, Chief Technology Officer, Rubicon Project and a director of Prebid.org, “The formation of Prebid.org marks a crucial step forward in the push for industry-wide adoption of open-source header bidding technologies.”

The launch of Prebid.org as an independent organisation does not alter the functionality of existing Prebid products, but rather bolsters support for their development and adoption within the industry. Amongst the products currently contributed to Prebid.org are client-side wrapper solution, Prebid.js, server-side header bidding solution, Prebid Server, as well as Prebid Mobile, Prebid Video, and Prebid Native. The solutions support all device types.

Publishers and ad tech vendors are encouraged to join Prebid.org, to further develop and champion best practices for open-source header bidding. Companies interested in participating should visit prebid.org for additional information.

Open-source header bidding technologies are developed in a way which favours growth for publishers and the programmatic industry as a whole, versus proprietary solutions, said Evan Simeone, SVP of Product Management at PubMatic. “Development in open-source projects is self-correcting for the benefit of the community as opposed to benefiting any one party, as we all should be up front and helpful in addressing our industry’s challenges to move forward.”

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