Studying the Integration Practices and the Evolution of Ad Libraries in the Google Play Store
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In-app advertisements have become a major revenue for app developers in the mobile app economy. Ad libraries play an integral part in this ecosystem as app developers integrate these libraries into their apps to display ads. However, little is known about how app developers integrate these libraries with their apps and how these libraries have evolved over time. In this thesis, we study the ad library integration practices and the evolution of such libraries. To understand the integration practices of ad libraries, we manually study apps and derive a set of rules to automatically identify four strategies for integrating multiple ad libraries. We observe that integrating multiple ad libraries commonly occurs in apps with a large number of downloads and ones in categories with a high percentage of apps that display ads. We also observe that app developers prefer to manage their own integrations instead of using off the shelf features of ad libraries for integrating multiple ad libraries. To study the evolution of ad libraries, we conduct a longitudinal study of the 8 most popular ad libraries. In particular, we look at their evolution in terms of size, the main drivers for releasing a new ad library version, and their architecture. We observe that ad libraries are continuously evolving with a median release interval of 34 days. Some ad libraries have grown exponentially in size (e.g., Facebook Audience Network ad library), while other libraries have worked to reduce their size. To study the main drivers for releasing an ad library version, we manually study the release notes of the eight studied ad libraries. We observe that ad library developers continuously update their ad libraries to support a wider range of Android versions (i.e., to ensure that more devices can use the libraries without errors). Finally, we derive a reference architecture for ad libraries and study how the studied ad libraries diverged from this architecture during our study period. Our findings can assist ad library developers to understand the challenges for developing ad libraries and the desired features of these libraries.
URI for this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/1974/26433
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