AdDuplex shuts down with short notice: Late casualty of Microsoft’s Windows Phone and Windows 8 issues?

AdDuplex shuts down with short notice: Late casualty of Microsoft’s Windows Phone and Windows 8 issues?

AdDuplex, a platform for cross-promotion of Windows applications, is shutting down, with founder and CEO Alan Mendelevich stating: “We ran out of options and ideas, so it’s time to call it a day and say goodbye.”

Mendelevich added that “we will stop serving both cross-promotion and commercial advertising on July 17th, 2023,” a timeline described as “really aggressive” by a follower on Facebook. Developers are advised that if their apps handle the “NoAd” event, indicating no ads available, they will continue to behave nicely.

AdDuplex was launched in early 2011, at which time the Windows developer community had hopes that Windows Phone would grow as a third mobile platform alongside Google Android and Apple iPhone. On Windows Phone the Store was the only way to install apps for most users, and the development platform based on Silverlight was well liked despite some shortcomings. The AdDuplex network enabled developers to promote their apps by running ads for other apps in a reciprocal arrangement.

The company extended its reach to the Windows 8 app store when it was released in 2012, and supported commercial ads as well as cross-promotion, with a revenue share. In June 2013 AdDuplex received $500,000 funding from Practica Capital “to help Windows Phone developers succeed,” quoting warm words from Microsoft’s general manager of Windows Phone Store at the time, Todd Brix, about the “rich developer ecosystem” for Microsoft’s mobile platform.

The problem AdDuplex aimed to solve was the difficulty Windows app developers had in monetizing their applications. Free apps are understandably popular in the consumer market, making advertising critical.  “No one likes ads, but in-app advertising is extremely important to the overall health of an app ecosystem,” said the company in 2016, noting the shortage of options for this, and winning respect from developers for its efforts.

Why has AdDuplex now “run out of options”? The core answer is that Microsoft’s Windows Store itself has stuttered over many years; and AdDuplex was always oriented towards Store apps with easy cross-promotion via Store links. The app store for Windows Phone was not too bad, but when Windows 8 was conceived as an alternative mobile platform the company decided to create a new, different and wholly incompatible app platform and Store, so that developers with existing apps would have to port them. Windows 8 launched with few worthwhile apps as a result, and in its efforts to pump up the numbers Microsoft achieved little other than an avalanche of low-quality apps that made the new Store even less appealing.

Windows Phone was cut back and eventually killed off by Microsoft, while Windows 8 morphed into Windows 10, as the company retreated from the notion of a tablet-centric Windows, and created a new app platform called UWP (Universal Windows Platform) which once again was intended to shift developers towards Store deployment. Limitations in UWP and the fact that users were familiar with the process of downloading and installing desktop apps outside the Store meant that once again it failed to take off in the way the company hoped.

Today the Microsoft Store remains unexciting. One of the factors is that the notion of the home PC as the place to install consumer apps has been overtaken by mobile platforms, with Windows now out of the race. The PC remains a strong gaming platform, but despite links with Xbox and Game Pass, Microsoft’s Store is only one of many options alongside Steam, Epic Games Store and others.

At its Build developer event in May 2022 Microsoft announced that the Microsoft Store on Windows now supported any kind of application. “The utility and desirability of the Windows platform comes largely from the huge selection of powerful and productive traditional desktop applications using traditional installers,” the company acknowledged, adding that it would now enable “those traditional desktop apps, commonly called “Win32” apps, packaged in .EXE or .MSI installers, and built using anything from .NET (WPF, Windows Forms, console) to C++, WinUI, MFC, Qt, Flutter, OpenGL, Pascal, Java, Electron, and so much more, to be part of the Windows Store catalog.”

This was the right decision for the health of the Store, but at this point it looks unlikely that the Store will ever dominate app installation on Windows. Some developers use it as a kind of donation option, like the popular WinSCP utility, which is free to download from its own site, or a modestly priced application from the Microsoft Store. “By buying official WinSCP from Microsoft Store you support WinSCP development. Thank you!” states the description. It has a 5 star rating; yet with only 25 ratings over five years, it looks like only a small minority go that route.

“I’m finally pulling the plug. Ready to go on a tour of those ‘fail conferences’ as a world-renowned FailSlow™ expert,” said Mendelevich on LinkedIn. Fail slow he did, long outlasting Windows Phone, and a casualty not so much of his own missteps but rather of Microsoft’s failures with Windows Phone and with its Store.