Recently, Google has been sharing more information about phasing out third-party browser cookies. But what is a browser cookie anyway? Cookies are just data points stored in your web browser that allow websites to track users and customize web experiences. Essentially, there are two types of browser cookies, first-party and third-party cookies. Chrome is specifically phasing out third-party cookies.
Third-party cookies have been used to track user behavior online and improve targeted advertising for years. Marketers and advertisers use third-party cookies for retargeting and behavioral advertising to serve relevant content to consumers.
So what’s next for Chrome?
Enter, Google’s Privacy Sandbox. Google describes the Privacy Sandbox as “a series of proposals to satisfy cross-site use cases without third-party cookies or other tracking mechanisms.”
Google also states that the Privacy Sandbox has two core aims:
- Develop replacement solutions to support web use cases and business models without enabling users to be tracked across sites, and avoiding cross-site tracking users aren’t aware of.
- Phase-out support for third-party cookies when new solutions are in place.
A specific Privacy Sandbox proposal gaining momentum is called FLoC, which stands for Federated Learning of Cohorts. For Chrome, third-party cookies are being replaced by FLoC over the next two years. Here’s how FLoC works — as a user browses the web, Chrome uses the FLoC algorithm to determine an individual’s “interest cohort.” That cohort is assigned an ID that will be made available to advertisers for targeting.
The FLoC IDs from Chrome will not contain identifiable user data; it is an ID that represents an entire cohort of similar browsing data. The difference between third-party cookies and FLoC is that FLoC will group you based on interests whereas third-party cookies are based on each individual’s browsing behavior.
As of March 2021, Google enabled FLoC for .5% of Chrome users. Google claims the system is 95% as effective as third-party cookies. The Privacy Sandbox is enabled by default on the Chrome browser but that does not mean that FLoC is enabled, it only means that Google can flip the switch.
FLoC solves as a substitute to third-party data for targeting ads to users based on similar browsing behavior by building interest cohorts, but that is where FLoC ends. The Privacy Sandbox has other proposals underway to solve for audience retargeting and view-through measurement. Stay tuned for more updates as proposals proceed through origin trials.
Here is a quick overview Google’s latest timeline
Initially, Google had been targeting early 2022 to phase out all third-party cookies in Chrome, but as of late June 2021, Google announced they have extended support of third-party cookies until 2023, while origin trials of privacy sandbox initiatives continue through testing.
Stage 1 (starting late-2022): Once testing is complete and APIs are launched in Chrome, Google will announce the start of this stage. During stage 1, publishers and the advertising industry will have time to migrate their services. Google anticipates this stage to last for nine months and will monitor adoption and feedback carefully before moving to stage 2.
Stage 2 (Starting mid-2023): Chrome will phase out support for third-party cookies over three months finishing in late 2023.
What can marketers do?
With this inevitable change in motion for third-party cookies in Chrome, marketers can do a few things:
- Define a first-party data strategy to obtain and manage data effectively
- Understand the first-party data currently available to them
- Continually enhance first-party data
- Build a strong relationship with customers built on trust and consent