The End of Third-Party Cookies – Almost

The End of Third-Party Cookies – Almost

As an internet user, you may have been excited by the news that Google will ban third-party cookies from their Chrome browser. If you are a business or digital marketing company, you were probably less enthused by this news.

Google’s decision to make this move has concerned lots of people, which is why they have decided to push the discontinuation of third-party cookies back until the end of 2023.

Sometimes, it seems hard to keep up with the ever evolving internet, and changes are happening faster than ever before regarding consumer data handling and their privacy. This is, of course, a good thing, but equally challenging for many who have built this into their business, purely from a service delivery point of view and not to cause harm or offence.

What is a third party cookie, and why are they bad?

A 3rd party cookie is a reason the new electric BMW you just looked at is now popping up on every site you visit and stalking you; for the rest of your days! Cookies have been around since 1994 and were developed to provide a better eCommerce experience.

Google pretty much invented the web that we all know and love today. What Google creates, Google can taketh away. Removing third-party cookies will make it far more difficult for advertisers to track people’s web activity using the search engine.

This seems like a splendid thing in many eyes; however, as is so often the case, this is probably just a new way for Google to dominate the web even more.

You see, Google will simply be bringing some of those external features in house! They will use browser-based machine learning to monitor your browsing history (much the same as those third party cookies) and deliver content that matches your interests. Electric BMW, anyone?

When Did Google Announce This and Were They the First?

The announcement by Google was first made in January 2020. We invite you to remember those romantic, simpler days of yesteryear before the world seemed to turn a little too far to the right on its axle!

The Safari browser owned by Apple limited cookie tracking way back in 2017, and Firefox, owned by Mozilla, blocked third party cookies in 2019. Firefox alone reportedly blocks over 10 billion tracking cookies every day! 

The online advertising industry does need a shakeup. Every day, billions of our data are traded automatically online without us even realising it. The level of trackers on your browser is most likely off the charts if you don’t regularly ask the question “how do I delete cookies” and then actually delete them. The cookie code tracks your browsing habits, learns about what you view, your likes and then serves up content based on that data. 

This move will impact many businesses that provide online services, advertise products, digital marketing agencies, online news platforms and more globally.

On the one hand, they are trying to do the right thing and make the online world a safer place by helping to reduce advertising fraud, but on the other hand, they will benefit by making this move, and many will probably lose out—the Yin and Yang of the internet.

Why did Google Choose to Delay the End of the 3rd Party Cookie?

When Google announced they would end the support for cookies in Chrome in early 2022, they had apparently hoped to have been able to address the needs of their users, advertisers and publishers by this timeline. Google says they hope this delay or ‘phase out’ will provide more time to make the necessary adjustments.

How Do Cookies Differ?

First party cookies are created and served by the website you visit and are super helpful because they remember your shopping cart items and your preferences to improve your user experience.

These are the ones you’re glad they exist because they make your online experience more user friendly and fluid. This is the one you so often have to give consent to the website or agree that by using the website, you accept their cookie policy.

Third-party cookies use Ad-Tech, which places code on the web domain of a third party server. Any website that loads the third party’s server code can then access that cookie data. This ad-tech enables advertisers to track the user and serve up ads targeting them wherever they go on their internet journey.

How Do Businesses Use Cookies?

Companies use cookies on websites to track user experience, monitor user data and website visits. This can help companies improve the user experience, make it more personal, and target ads (products and services) to the right audience. Businesses can also use cookies that are placed by (third-party) ad companies to monitor the user’s internet journey and online behaviour.

Web browsers such as Safari, Firefox and Brave that put privacy first already block third party cookies; Google Chrome also phasing out third party cookies will create the biggest splash in the internet ocean.

What Alternative Third Party Cookie Will Google Use?

Google announced its Privacy Sandbox would, over time, make third party cookies “obsolete.”

So, what’s going to take their place? Google will use AI (artificial intelligence) to target ads based on users general interests. Their AI system is called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). The system learns your web history and user journey and assigns you to a group based on your interests.

If you’re really into electric BMW’s, then you’ll be in a group based on this, and advertisers will be able to market their shiny new vehicles, products or services to you. Just like Netflix serves up programmes you would probably like to see because someone like you also liked that programme.

With data breaches happening worldwide regularly, many from notable brands we know and trust to government organisations, it’s clear something needs to be done to protect our online user experience and online security.

New ways of understanding consumers will have to be found or developed. Businesses will have to use methods to effectively engage with their customers through more traditional practices like email marketing, CRM (customer relationship management) systems, and online engagement to understand their customers and audience to provide the products, services, and user experience they want and need.

If you would like to make your online experience safer, please view our blog on How to Improve Your Cyber Security and Safety.

These changes are needed, but no one can truly predict the impact they will have on the web and the billions of us who choose to use it and rely on it personally or professionally. Stay tuned because we continually monitor these subjects and will provide any updates as they develop.