Microsoft is Shutting Down Ad Monetization for UWP Apps

Posted on January 31, 2020 by Brad Sams in Windows with 37 Comments

Microsoft Defends Windows Store, Promises Improvements

Microsoft’s relationship with UWP has been estranged, at best, in the past couple of years. From moving the goalposts to what defines a UWP to saying the platform isn’t dead, one thing is clear, the future of UWP doesn’t look all that bright.

And the news is only going further downhill, as Microsoft has quietly announced that they will be turning off ad monetization for UWP. Posted in a thread for Windows Apps, a moderator announced that as of June 1st, 2020, Microsoft Ad Monetization platform for Windows UWP apps will be shut down.

This will have a significant impact for any developer who was depending on this revenue stream for their operations. Further, this will severely limit how developers can make money in the Microsoft store and is now a significant reason to not build apps using this development model.

The writing has been on the wall though, Microsoft has been moving away from UWP as the future for Windows development and its stores have had minimal success, at best. But those most impacted by this will be the developers who took a bet on the platform early and have continued to support it up until this announcement.

Going forward, there is very little incentive for independent developers to bring their applications to the Microsoft store. Unless Microsoft opens up the door to using third-party services and provides them as integrated, native services, this will be the death blow to finally sink the already flooded UWP battleship.


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Comments (37)

37 responses to “Microsoft is Shutting Down Ad Monetization for UWP Apps”

  1. sherlockholmes

    Does that mean the ad in the Mail App will be gone, too?

  2. waethorn

    People should've seen this coming when they removed their pride and joy, Office, from the store.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Waethorn:

      Putting Office in the Store was either desperation or a brief pang of guilt about inconsistency. However, anyone who bothered to compare Office Store installs vs tradition installs (I had Store install on my Windows 10 Insider VM, and traditional install on my Windows 8.1 VM, so I could do so head to head) discovered that the Store install used a few GB more disk storage because every @#$%&*! separate Office program, Access, Excel, Word, etc, had its OWN FULL COPY of what traditional install puts ONCE under %PROGRAMFILES%\Common Files. The Store version of Office was a showpiece for what was wrong at the core of the Store concept: it couldn't avoid redundancy.

      Arguably more notable was all the rest of its own software MSFT never put in the Store. MSFT led by example: those developers who knew never used the Store, neither MSFT developers nor sensible ISVs.

      • waethorn

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        AFAIK App-V doesn't have an option for shared resources outside of what is included with Windows. You can't "layer" dependencies like you can with, say, Flatpak or Docker.

      • illuminated

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        My opinion may be unpopular but I really hate shared files. They can break things easily and in so many weird ways...

        • hrlngrv

          In reply to illuminated:

          So if you have 3 applications each of which using Python for their internal scripting, it's just fine with you to have 3 full Python installs on your system? Not even common documentation files (.CHM or .PDF) could be shared across multiple programs? If so, we definitely have a difference of opinion.

  3. factoryoptimizr

    >> Microsoft has been moving away from UWP as the future for Windows development

    No, no no! You misunderstand! Microsoft is EVOLVING UWP as the future for Windows development. UWP was created in an effort to fix the legacy "internals" baggage of WinForms and WPF, while preserving the best parts. At the UI level, WinForms evolved into WPF (with its XAML application description language), which evolved into UWP (also using XAML...but a slightly different dialect than WPF), which is evolving into the upcoming WinUI 3 as a single, consolidated, cross-platform UI definition model. Under the hood, the .NET Framework evolved into the cross-platform .NET Core, which, unified by .NET Standard as a common set of APIs, will evolve into the upcoming .NET 5 as a single, consolidated, cross-platform set of programming tools.

    In an effort to "meet developers where they are," Microsoft is adding backward compatibility for Win32 WinForms and WPF code, but these programming models will not be developed further. UWP IS being actively developed (though no longer called UWP). Microsoft has made it clear that today's UWP apps will run natively on the upcoming Surface Neo with Windows 10X with no sandboxing or emulation required.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to FactoryOptimizr:

      My perspective is skewed, and I'm admitting it up front.

      The software I use most during my standard workday are Firefox (portable, yes, unapproved), Excel, Outlook, RStudio (and GNU R) and Notepad++. Only Excel and Outlook bear recognizable traces of Office 2013's embrace of touch-aware design, but they're not UWP internally. Firefox, RStudio and GNU R run on multiple OSes, so their developers only use components available on all those OSes. FWIW, GNU R is the character mode back-end, so not really relevant for UWP. Finally, Notepad++, for which there is a Linux fork which is still a ways off from reliability and fully featured, but which definitely doesn't look Modern.

      When it comes to math, stats, database, and scripting language IDEs (if I can still use that acronym), cross-OS is the default, and that means avoiding components particular to specific OSes.

      If I had more than a decade left in my working life (well, things could go south, so who knows), I figure I'd be using as much software based on Qt as I would based on anything which originated from UWP.

  4. chaad_losan

    Now your failure is complete!

  5. cseafous

    It would be nice if this meant Microsoft was going to focus on containerized and PWA apps in the store. I still think there is value in having apps vetted and in one place.

  6. meauxx

    Wrong again! UWP is getting better by the day and we are developing awesome LOB applications. That is where MS focus is now. No pint doing Ads if its not going to work on phones.... Pretty obvious.

  7. mattbg

    I was using about 6 UWP apps and I am down to about 2 now, which I paid for.

    The others atrophied from lack of updates and various service connections stopped working. The last time I reinstalled Windows I found out that the 3rd last UWP app I had been using had been removed from the Store from the vendor, so I couldn't reinstall it :)

    I have found decent replacements for many but not all of them simply by using app-like web sites in app windows pinned to the taskbar. I was doing this with Chrome but now that the new Edge is out I've removed Chrome and am doing it with Edge.

  8. hrlngrv

    I only ever used 2 UWP apps directly: Feedback Hub (no alternative) and Code Writer. I tried to use the latter, but the simple fact is that I'm too used to how Notepad++ works to be comfortable using any other editor aside from vim in console/terminal windows. Code Writer wasn't bad, just not so good it replaced my preferred text editor. OK, I also use Alarms & Clocks for some things, but I also use an analog clock desktop widget which provides alarms. OK, I also have to admit that I also use the MS Store app too on rare occasions.

    I also have Weather, Finance and News on my Windows 10 Start menu for the few times I ever use it. Credit to Weather: it shows notifications of fires in the area in summer and fall (useful here in California). As a widget, it's fine. As a fully opened app, it's not as good as my local newspaper's weather page. As for Finance and News, they're eye candy. I'd never use MSN for anything.

    This isn't surprising. What makes Windows valuable is all the OLD, so Win32, software which Windows 10 runs. There was NO WAY UWP and the MS Store was going to generate even 10% of the value of old, non-store software for Windows USERS. Rather strong evidence for that assertion is provided by MSFT itself due to how FEW MSFT software titles were ever available in the MS Store.

    In a nutshell, MSFT itself never believed in its own Store, and the smarter, less credulous developers noticed MSFT's own indifference and copied it. It was only the poor dumb schmucks who hadn't learned never to trust MSFT who invested real time and attention developing UWP apps.

    As for assertions that UWP remains the way to develop one app across all device types supported by UWP, just how many apps is that? Is there any public figure for the % or number of MS Store apps which can run on the few remaining Windows 10 Mobile phones in use, non-MSFT Windows tablets, PCs of all types, Surface Hubs, HoloLens, Xbox and IoT? My point: it was pure BS to suggest there was any appreciable market for any type of app across all those device types.

  9. jesam

    Wrong decision upon wrong decision upon wrong decision. They'll never learn.

  10. pachi

    i Have to admit that I really like buying programs thru the Store if they’re available as the ease to install, auto update and uninstall is years beyond typical installers! This kind of thing makes me very leery About continuing to do so though....

    (random capitalization courtesy of iPhone)

    • bnyklue

      In reply to pachi:

      The store will be completely gone by next year.

      • pachi

        In reply to bnyklue:

        this is my concern. It will likely be more than a year but I can totally see them just phasing it out. What’s supposed to be filling it as this point? Even Edge extensions are now out of Store with new edge!

    • Omen_20

      In reply to pachi:

      Yeah I enjoy checking for updates in one place. I've always hoped that companies like Adobe would support it. Windows has felt behind ever since I got used to package managers and then stores in Linux distros. Between Office, SSMS, VS Code, Visual Studio, Adobe Creative, Vivaldi, LINQPad, Notepad++, and Telerik, I see tons of manual update dialogs.

      Technically I could install and Inkscape through the store. Might do that at some point, but Inkscape notes that the store version may have issues compared to the msi install.

  11. djross95

    UMP apps on Windows are a disaster. iOS apps on Macs are a disaster (so far). And Android apps on Chrome are a disaster. Can't anyone get this stuff right?

  12. bnyklue

    Microsoft doesn’t care, but without apps Windows has no future. Platform is a sinking ship now.

  13. Yaggs

    Can't they just make android apps run on Windows, add the Play Store and move on? I see value in the store for other types of apps, and the upgrade and reinstallation of apps through the store is great...

    Wonder what this means for things like HoloLens, etc...

  14. jimchamplin

    Maybe we can go back to pre-app-store days of buying quality software.

  15. Jogy

    What about the paid apps and in-app purchases?

    The ad monetization can be replaced with third-party one.

  16. Maverick010

    Other then some big time apps like iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, etc. and Microsoft 1st Party and few Big 3rd Party developed games, the store was not doing well. I think also by merging their actual e-commerce store into the Windows store and not doing a good job of highlighting apps didn't help at all. I thought the store would have some better momentum when they began allowing old Win32 apps to be packaged on the store but in a container like design. Also adding the movies anywhere was good, but in the end it looks to not of been enough.

  17. gregsedwards

    If any developer was actively making loads of money on UWP ads in the first place, then this wouldn't be happening. Let's face it, the app landscape is vastly different today from a few years ago. These days, it's mostly established brands (Adobe, Netflix, Spotify, Amazon, Disney, etc.) extending their consumer experience to a given platform as opposed to some indie coder trying to run a side hustle. If there's an official app, then maybe users will install it, but given all the privacy, quality, and support concerns, most are not going to install a third-party version of a popular app. And no big company is making money on their in-app ads anymore; they've all long since figured out how to stream revenue outside the app (i.e., subscriptions).

    I mean, If BBW Media hypothetically decided to make a Thurrott app -- not just on UWP, but on any platform -- would your business plan hinge on selling in-app ads? Of course not. The sole purpose of the app would be to drive subscriptions to Thurrott Premium. That's where you make your money, regardless of the platform. It's the same reason that Spotify, Amazon, and others often don't provide any way to create an account or purchase content through their apps. They don't want to share that $$$ pie with the platform developer, nor do they want to share it with an ad network.

    I think the market for truly useful one-trick indie apps is already very, very small, and likely to go the way of the dodo anyway. Except maybe games.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to gregsedwards:

      the app landscape is vastly different today from a few years ago

      Or in a way exactly the same: PC USERS as opposed to MSFT and ISVs want to keep on using the software they've been using for the past few decades, and they may also prefer web apps running in browsers to phone-like stand-alone apps. IOW, there was NEVER much of a market for mobile apps to be run on PCs, and there still isn't. MSFT's own shilling for its Store since Build 2011 has been pure hucksterism.

      MSFT never cared about anyone but MSFT making money from the MS Store, and now it seems MSFT has finally abandoned the dream of it ever making money for MSFT. Who believe MSFT ever gave a single thought to how this might affect 3rd party developers foolish enough to make UWP apps.

  18. darkgrayknight

    This is confusing. What is being shutdown? They have this: "While this transition may be painful for developers who rely on the Ad Monetization platform today, we want to provide adequate time to make the transition to another ad platform. Our recommendation is to begin initiating a switch over immediately by evaluating alternate options for ad monetization for your Windows apps."

    So, they will have something to transition to? I don't think this is really anything that big, just that the "UWP only" version of ad monetization is over and UWP app developers need to move to a more general ad monetization method.

  19. bluvg

    Yeah, this makes sense because everyone prefers and trusts decentralized more. After all, we've all seen how people have, instead of going to Amazon to buy anything as they once did, going to to buy tissues, for soda, to buy a Wi-Fi router, to buy books they publish, etc.

    C'mon, Microsoft. Just because you did an app store poorly doesn't mean the concept is bad, and it doesn't mean you can't fix or re-do yours.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to bluvg:

      Just because you did an app store poorly doesn't mean the concept is bad, and it doesn't mean you can't fix or re-do yours.

      What if MSFT did the best job it possibly could with the Store (either retrospectively or prospectively) and ISVs showed little interest?

      Then there's simple economics. One single software source may be ideal for MSFT and maybe good for users, but is it good for all ISVs and 3rd party developers? Doesn't seem to be. From my perspective, that makes your Amazon analogy exquisitely apt: Amazon and book buyers benefit, and it's just to poor dumb authors and publishers who suffer. [Disclaimer: I buy most of my books from brick & mortar stores because book stores are my favorite retail stores PERIOD. The two worst things which have befallen my retail shopping life have been the demise of Cody's in Berkeley and Stacey's in San Francisco. For online, when possible I buy from IOBA.]

      • bluvg

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        If MSFT did the best job they possibly could with the Store, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

        Book stores are still similar to the "Store" model--centralized distribution rather than decentralized. You generally don't purchase directly from the publisher or authors.

        • Paul Thurrott

          Microsoft made mistakes, for sure. But users simply haven't rallied around mobile (or mobile-like) app stores on desktop OSes. The Mac App Store isn't working either. That's not 100 percent Apple's fault either.
          • hrlngrv

            In reply to paul-thurrott:

            Humans are creatures of habit. Humans have DECADES of habit finding their PC or Mac software in places other than OS-specific online Stores.

            Economics also matters, and ISVs actually selling non-cost-free software have disincentives to use MSFT or Apple app stores because of the share of revenues MSFT and Apple take.

            I have no experience with Apple's Mac Store, but I have some with the MSFT Store. Standard desktop software installed from the Store can take up more disk space than traditionally installed software because Store software doesn't share anything with the rest of the system.

            I understand the potential advantages of updating software via the Store, but I have various software which updates itself relatively painlessly AND without needing a service running all the time, e.g., portable Firefox.

  20. nielsc

    I have been developing Windows apps since day 0, and one of my main apps that has been in the Windows store since a week before it opened to the public relies on ads (App Radio). It has around 2 million downloads, 20 to 30.000 users per day and it costs about $150,- per month to run the Azure backend. Luckily I have seen this coming a few years ago and I decided to start developing Android and iOS apps as well, with far better results. Compared to iOS and Android, the Windows Store has always been an unreliable platform at best: the store portal where you upload your apps is clunky, ads portal mostly shows "currently no data", MS regulates and throttles ad revenue, ads stop working out of no where, my apps being pulled from the store for vague reasons, support is always frustrating as can be and so on.

    So as soon as my apps stop making money (june 1st) I will pull them from the Windows store, otherwise it will cost me money. And actually, this is a blessing for me, because it will now be a lot easier to move away from Azure and MS altogether and I can finally cancel my way to expensive VS enterprise subscription. Thanks Microsoft!