Google Says Goodbye to Third-Party Cookies

Posted on April 16, 2021

By 2022, Google will have phased out its use of third-party cookies – here’s what you need to know!

Companies have been using cookies for years; to track their website visitors (on their own website and elsewhere), to improve user experience and to target their ads to the most appropriate audiences.

However, in a bid to prioritise consumer privacy, Google Chrome recently announced that not only are they phasing out the web browser’s support of third-party cookies by 2022 but that they do not plan to supply “alternate identifiers to track individuals”.

Here’s what you need to know…

Why has this come about?

Tracking and ad targeting has become more visible, and frustrating, to consumers in recent years. The most notable example is having ads for a product you previously looked at appear on an entirely different website. In turn, more consumers are choosing to use ad blockers, which has led browser developers to find ways to encourage the industry to think more about the consumer and to provide greater transparency.

Google isn’t banning all cookies.

First-party cookies which track users on a company’s own site are not being banned; in fact, Google consider them “vital” to improving customer experience. Remembering login details, keeping items in your online basket and retaining user preferences are all part of the service that first-party cookies provide. For the companies, they allow the collation of basic analytics, such as how long a person spent on your website and what they did while they were there.

What will replace third-party cookies?

The answer is… no-one knows!

This is, however, an opportunity for brands to develop their customer relationships and offer a more transparent and user-friendly way of advertising and collecting data.

In a statement, Google discussed two potential avenues that they have been considering. The first, Google’s Privacy Sandbox, involves cookies being replaced by 5 application programming interfaces. This would allow advertisers to receive aggregated data about conversion rates, for example.

The second option involves Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoc), which would group consumers with similar interests together for ad targeting. Google believes this could prove to be an effective replacement for third-party cookies.

What are the downfalls?

Though many marketers saw this coming, given the EU’s crackdown on data privacy issues in October 2019, some are concerned by Google’s reasoning behind the move and what it will mean for competition.

While it is supposed to be beneficial to consumers, any platforms and ad software that rely upon the use of third-party cookies for revenue are likely to be hit hard. Without viable alternatives currently available, it risks upsetting much of the infrastructure of today’s internet. Some even argue that it seems as thought Google are looking to further monopolise the ad market, by forcing advertisers to adopt Chrome’s first-party cookies.

What happens next?

Since the usefulness of third-party cookies had already been weakened by Safari and Firefox’s ad blocking, this move to find something better was almost certain to occur. While alternative solutions are being dreamt up, advertisers and marketers will probably begin to rely more heavily on data from first-party cookies and may even return to some older advertising strategies.

You can read Google’s latest statement here.