The Death of the Third-Party Cookie Is Near…We Think

The Death of the Third-Party Cookie Is Near...We Think

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Google announced deprecation of the third-party cookie way back in 2020. They adjusted their timeline for doing so on two separate occasions. But now it looks like Google’s decision is for real. It would appear that the death of the third-party cookie is finally on the horizon. At least that is what a lot of us in the industry believe.

What does that mean to website owners and marketers? It means preparing now for what is likely to happen by the end of the year. Understand that Google began deprecating third-party cookies for 1% of Chrome users beginning on January 4 of 2024. It is essentially a test. They plan to gradually increase deprecation until all Chrome users are no longer subject to third-party cookies.

More About Third-Party Cookies

Digital marketing agencies and big companies with their own web development staff are pretty familiar with third-party cookies. They know what the cookies do and what it means to lose access to them. But if you are a small business owner who has built a DIY website with something like WordPress, it is possible that you are in the dark about third-party cookies. That does not mean your website will not be affected by deprecation.

A third-party cookie is a software tool placed inside the browser of an internet user. It is placed there by the developers of a website the user has never visited – hence, the third-party designation. Web developers use third-party cookies to track internet behavior. Every third-party cookie residing in your browser tracks all your activity across the internet.

Why They Are Being Deprecated

Google has chosen to deprecate third-party cookies in Chrome for several reasons, not the least of which is their desire to comply with demands made by the UK Competition and Markets Authority. Multiple jurisdictions worldwide are concerned about third-party cookies because they:

  • Create Privacy Concerns – Third-party cookies collect a tremendous amount of data without the knowledge of the affected user. This creates significant concerns about privacy.
  • Lack Transparency – Because third-party cookies work in the background, internet users are completely unaware of what information is being collected and how it is being used.
  • Create a Risk of Misuse – Third-party cookies, by their nature, create a significant risk of misuse. Collected data could be used for any number of nefarious purposes while affected users are left in the dark.

It is unfortunate that third-party cookies have created so many problems. Misuse and privacy concerns aside, they are invaluable tools for marketing and targeted advertising. But like every other tool, third-party cookies are grossly overused and often abused. So now they need to go.

Start Preparing for the Alternatives

Although the loss of third-party cookies could be a severe blow to online marketers, there are alternatives. Salt Lake City’s Webtek Digital Marketing says that now is the time to start preparing for those alternatives. Marketing agencies should be learning what the alternatives are and exactly how they work.

One alternative Google is pitching is the first-party cookie. It is similar to the third-party cookie except that it is placed in a browser by a website that the user is currently visiting. It tracks only the activity on that website. Other possibilities include contextual targeting and cohort-based targeting.

It looks like Google is serious about getting rid of third-party cookies by the end of this year. Now that they’ve begun testing what they call the Privacy Sandbox, I see no reason they won’t follow through. The death of a third-party cookie appears to finally be here. As a digital marketing agency owner or independent marketer, are you ready for it?

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