Long Live the Cookies

27 Jun 2021 » Opinion

At beginning of this year, I wrote a blog post on a cookie-less web. In it, I explained where did this witch hunt against the cookies come from and what would the (expected) next chapter in this drama be. However, a recent plot twist has sent ripples, which have been felt in every corner of the Internet.

The announcement

Initially, Google was going to disable 3rd party cookies in Chrome by 2022 for good. Now, Google has just announced that it will delay this radical change until the end of 2023, by almost 2 years.

This decision has taken many of us by surprise. I do not think anybody was expecting it. Or were there clues that pointed in this direction?

Be careful what you wish for

Those of us in the digital marketing world know that some advertising platforms could not care less about users’ privacy. So, when companies like Apple started to be more strict with 3rd party cookies, many people applauded this move. It seemed like we were going to be safer online.

As usual, though, there have been some unexpected and, probably, undesirable consequences of this path to a cookie-less web. Small companies that heavily rely on 3rd party cookies will have to find another business for themselves or file for bankruptcy. Usually, they do not have the influence or financial muscle to force a change that will benefit them.

However, giants like Google were not going to stand still and wait for the market to find a solution. As leaders, they were busy creating their own solution: Google FLoC. I have to admit that I do not know the exact details about this solution, but I have seen some comments against it. Maybe the most notorious opposition came from the EFF.

I also omitted an alternative option for the small companies I referred to above. They could start using more aggressive techniques to identify web visitors. I am sure nobody wants that. As an example, my wife has recently purchased a few products online, from her laptop. Now, I see banners with those very same products on my phone. The only way why this could have happened is through my home’s IP address. While I have control over my cookies, I do not have any over my IP address. I could use a VPN or Tor, but this is just adding more complexity and not for everybody.

And, if this was not enough, there will be another negative consequence: big corporations will become even more powerful. We must not forget that if 3rd party data disappears, the owners of tons of 1st party data will take advantage of that. Think about the following estimated numbers for 2021:

  • Google Chrome: 63.5% market share.
  • Gmail: 1.8 billion active users.
  • Hotmail/Outlook: 500 million active users.
  • Facebook: 1.73 billion daily users and 2.60 billion monthly users.

I think we can all agree that it is very easy for these companies to push any competitor out of the market and impose their advertising solutions. In my humble opinion, this is actually bad news. We will end up having less choice and the power concentrated in even fewer hands. And I am not the only one saying it. The European Commission, the UK government and the US Justice Department are allegedly investigating Google. Why? You guessed right: anticompetitive conduct.

In summary, an initial idea that many thought to be a good one has turned out to be not that good. As the old saying goes, the cure is worse than the disease.

If you want more details, I recommend you read this c|net post.

What’s next?

Nobody knows. In fact, if anybody tries to predict the future in this arena, I would recommend that you take it with a grain of salt. The last twist in this story has already shown us that anything can happen. Apparently, Google is trying to come up with an updated FLoC. However, the influence of the different regulator bodies will have an impact in the next chapter and they have only started their analysis.

I assume that the plans of some companies to get ready for 2022 may be put on hold. On the other hand, we all know that most businesses tend to be reactive, so this change just gives them more time to think about what to do. What I think it is clear is that 3rd party cookies have their days numbered, no matter what.

In the meantime, I recommend you make some popcorn and watch the main actors play.


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