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Third-Party Cookies Elimination — What You Need To Know?

Karolina Obszyńska Aug 24. 2023
When users browse the internet, every newly visited website welcomes them with a pop-up informing about the use of cookies. Most people routinely consent and proceed to the site. Thanks to the user's agreement, as the owner of a store or website, you can legally collect data about individuals who have visited your site. For several years, the topic of "cookies" (as we colloquially refer to this data) has been particularly prominent due to upcoming changes in privacy policies. In this article, we'll sort out the basic knowledge about their origin and shed light on what will change regarding third-party cookies in the near future.

How Were Cookies Created?

In the autumn of 1994, a 23-year-old programmer named Lou Montulli, working at Netscape Communications, created a short text sequence:

Set-Cookie: CUSTOMER=WILE_E_COYOTE; path=/; expires=Wednesday, 09-Nov-99 23:12:40 GMT_

Back then, he had no idea that this piece of code (limited to a 4K file size) would have such a massive impact on the world and user privacy online. Lou Montulli created cookies for the owner of an online store. He aimed to provide a solution that allowed his customers to store items in their shopping carts. Unfortunately, the servers on which the store was based couldn't retrieve and store data from every shopping cart. This led Lou to the idea of saving this information on the customers' computers. When data about the website was sent back to the browser, it was accompanied by a cookie file—whose purpose was to identify the user. The transmitted information was only accessible between the customer and the specific server with which they were interacting.

Thanks to "cookies," users could (and still can!) freely navigate websites without the need to log in again with a password every time the page is reloaded. And when they add interesting products to their shopping carts and accidentally leave the site, those items still await them!

The Cookie Revolution

Just a year after Montulli's creation of cookies, the advertising agency DoubleClick (now owned by Google) realized that it could modify the concept of cookies created by the young programmer to more closely monitor users online. In short, their idea was to give users who visited a local news site cookies not only from that site's server but also from servers owned by companies that placed advertisement banners to track users on the visited website.

Initially, advertising companies used this technique only to track unique users. Over time, however, "third-party cookies" allowed for highly accurate ad targeting, which became the dominant business model in search engines and social media.

What Are Cookies?

Let's delve into the theory. Cookies are small files placed in our web browsers that serve to identify users online. They can be likened to an online fingerprint, allowing for the recognition of a specific internet user. There are two types of cookies:

First-party cookies — files placed in a user's browser directly by the site they visited. Through them, a website can:

  • Remember the user's login and password with their consent.

  • Save settings for that specific site (e.g., text size or language).

  • Retain items in the user's shopping cart.

  • Suggest products similar to or complementary with those the user viewed or bought.

Third-party cookies — files placed in a user's browser not by the site they visited but by its partners. The primary aim of these cookies is advertising. They allow companies to:

  • Display more personalized content to users.

  • Monitor the effectiveness of ads.

  • Measure precise numbers of clicks and views.

  • Create an online behavioral profile of the user, which includes behaviors, preferences, and search history across various websites.

Elimination of Third-Party Cookies

Cookies have been successfully used in internet advertising for over a decade. However, considering the current legal and societal changes aimed at increasing user data protection online, third-party cookies are being phased out. Other sources of user data acquisition, such as first-party cookies, will gain importance instead. The elimination of third-party cookies is also tied to the increase in website traffic from mobile devices. Mobile applications do not support cookies, causing them to lose significance.

When Will Third-Party Cookies Disappear?

Some browsers on the market have already phased out third-party cookies:

  • 03.2019: Safari blocked third-party cookies.

  • 09.2019: Firefox blocked third-party cookies.

  • 01.2020: Edge blocked third-party cookies.

However, Google has extended the process of discontinuing third-party cookies until 2024. Given that Chrome is the most widely used browser among internet users, changes within it will have the largest impact on internet advertising.

What Will Change After Blocking Third-Party Cookies?

Information about users visiting a specific website will be limited. Online store owners will lose access to parts of user information that they've gathered based on search results and by observing and recording individual behaviors on their website. Effective ad targeting will become much more challenging than before.

How to Prepare for the Elimination of Third-Party Cookies?

In relation to user privacy protection, Google is planning to eliminate third-party cookies in collaboration with digital market representatives. According to a Google study, a complete removal of third-party cookies could lead to revenue losses for publishers of up to 52%. To avoid this, Google is developing and testing new privacy standards. The Privacy Sandbox initiative has also been launched to enhance user security. As part of this project, technology is being developed to replace third-party cookies.

It's worth mentioning that third-party cookies are just one type of cookie. Completely blocking them won't cause cookies to be "eaten up." Browsers will still support first-party cookies.

Your primary focus should now be on obtaining user information. How can you gather it? Utilize your owned media, such as your website, blog, social media profiles, and emails sent to your recipients. Owned media encompass all the content your brand creates and shares through your communication channels.

The task ahead of you is not easy, but it's also not impossible. Solutions available on the market, as well as technology based on artificial intelligence, will assist you in building your own address database for effective communication.

Interested in expanding your e-business with new solutions? Contact us at Together with Red Fox Rocs, we'll tailor appropriate actions to your needs and vision.

    Check how we can improve your business