Google Chrome started blocking websites from using third-party cookies on January 4th. Cookies are the easiest way to track consumers’ online behavior all around the web using small files stored on their device to collect analytic data. This data is then used to personalize online ads and monitor browsing.
Chrome blocked third-party cookies for 1 percent of users, around 30 million people, on computers and Android phones. Google will then extend the block to all Chrome users by the end of 2024 under a specific schedule that it has pushed back several times recently.
Chrome’s decision to block cookies is a momentous change for the web. Cookies have been on the web for the longest time and blocking them falls in line with growing efforts to protect privacy online. Third-party cookies track users around the web, building up a detailed profile of them. This profile could include interests and personal information such as gender, sexuality, religion, and political affiliation. This information can be used to build invasive online experiences for users. However, one of the major concerns when it comes to third-party cookies is that profiles could be sold to other third parties.
Aside from privacy concerns, cookies have multiple uses. They remember language preferences and protect against fraud. Moreover, they make it easier to return to a site without having to log in again. However, many of those cookies involve first-party cookies, not third-party cookies.
Google’s Chrome is the world’s most popular internet browser, accounting for 63 percent of web usage, according to analytics firm StatCounter. Major competitors like Apple’s Safari and Mozilla Firefox already include options to block third-party cookies. However, Google Chrome was more cautious with its decision to block cookies and raised concerns about undermining the online advertising industry, marketers, ad tech companies, and web publishers.
Without cookies, some have employed tracking technologies that are harder to block. However, Chrome and others are working on replacements for some of the features cookies offer. For example, they are finding ways to help advertisers know if their ads have been seen. However, balancing privacy and helping advertisers has been challenging but possible.
Google Chrome ensures that it will provide businesses with new tools to succeed online aside from cookies. For example, Google has worked on building new tools like Topics to substitute for third-party cookies. Topics is a programming interface that helps with targeted advertising without tracking website activity. However, based on its Chromium open-source foundation, other browsers like Safari and Firefox don’t support it.
Other tools include The Privacy Sandbox which aims to create technologies that ensure privacy and support companies and developers in developing successful digital businesses.
Can businesses adapt?
With the emergence of Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI), businesses and smaller companies can adapt by creating new tools to get insights and first-party data. When Apple blocked third-party cookies, the change was very disruptive, however, companies who were able to adapt to that change saw immense benefits. They were able to collect first-party insights and data and build up their personal database. This holds immense long-term benefits for them, especially with the emergence of AI which relies greatly on data.
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