OpenRTB takes on private exchange and bot traffic


When OpenRTB was first announced in November 2010, programmatic advertising had captured just 4% of the display market. Fast-forward to today and the industry is projected to hit 22% by the end of the year.  I believe that a large percentage of this growth is due to the reduced friction that OpenRTB protocol standardization has enabled. OpenRTB is an IAB sponsored project that provides standards for communication between buyers of advertising and sellers of publisher inventory. I’m excited to announce that the final draft of OpenRTB Version 2.2 is now out for public comment.  In thirty days this new version will be certified by the IAB.   Version 2.2 is a major leap forward for OpenRTB.  The new features include:

  • Comprehensive support for private marketplace (aka private exchange or Deal ID)
  • Improved support for new types of video and mobile inventory
  • Support for signals from publishers to buyers to abide by COPPA regulations
  • Support for differentiating secure (https) and non-secure inventory
  • Support for buyers to send flags to sellers in real-time about suspected non-human traffic (aka bot traffic)


That last item is especially important in light of growing concerns about so-called bot traffic – computer generated impressions controlled by illegal networks of hacked computers.

Version 2.2 will help reduce the amount of bot traffic that ends up in the RTB ecosystem by enabling buyers to signal to a seller in real-time if they suspect fraud or bot traffic on a site.  As soon as a buyer identifies some inventory as fishy, the OpenRTB 2.2 protocol enables them to return a “no bid reason” indicating why they are refusing the buy this inventory.  The exchange can then shut off the traffic or investigate.    The hope is to eliminate the current process of communicating via emails and phone calls so that buyers and sellers can work collaboratively and programmatically to cut down the time to identify and kick out the bad actors of the ecosystem.

The OpenRTB committee worked on this version for nearly a year with over 20 companies actively participating in 9 revisions. A big shout out goes to Neal Richter, Chief Scientist at Rubicon who led the charge on this version as well as Jim Butler at Nexage and the many other contributors who provided feedback from their companies and customers.  The active debate on the openrtb-dev mailing list about OpenRTB 2.2 make this one of the best and most reviewed versions yet.

OpenRTB 2.2 is fully backwards compatible with versions 2.1 and 2.0, so upgrading should be easy for both buyers and sellers.

As one of the founders of OpenRTB, I’m excited about how far we’ve come, and what this new version represents.  We look forward to hearing feedback from the community in the meantime.  To leave feedback, please post issues on our github issues page.  If you are a technical leader or product manager please check out our mailing list.

by Bill Simmons, CTO and Co-Founder, DataXu