The cookieless future. That has become the new buzzword as Google decided to phase out third-party (3P) cookies and Apple to end the use of device identifiers for advertisers (IDFA). Even though Google recently delayed the decision by almost two years to late 2023, marketers need to start planning now for a future without 3P cookies. As Jerry Daykin tweeted: “Forward thinking marketers still need to be building future-ready data & marketing approaches that reflect shifting consumer privacy expectations.”
Let’s begin with a brief explainer on first-party and third-party cookies, and IDFA.
Cookies: From Wikipedia: “Cookies are small blocks of data created by a web server while a user is browsing a website and placed on the user’s computer or other device by the user’s web browser. Cookies are placed on the device used to access a website, and more than one cookie may be placed on a user’s device during a session. Cookies serve useful and sometimes essential functions on the web. They enable web servers to store stateful information (such as items added in the shopping cart in an online store) on the user’s device or to track the user’s browsing activity (including clicking particular buttons, logging in, or recording which pages were visited in the past). They can also be used to save for subsequent use information that the user previously entered into form fields, such as names, addresses, passwords, and payment card numbers.”
First-party cookies: From CookiePro: “First-party cookies are directly stored by the website (or domain) you visit. These cookies allow website owners to collect analytics data, remember language settings, and perform other useful functions that provide a good user experience. An example of a first-party cookie is when a user signs into an ecommerce website, like Amazon. The web browser will send a request in a process that provides the highest level of trust that the user is directly interacting with Amazon. The web browser saves this data file to the user’s computer, under the “amazon.com” domain. If first-party cookies were blocked, a user would have to sign-in every time they visited, and they wouldn’t be able to purchase multiple items while shopping online because the cart would reset after every item that was added.”
Third-party cookies: From Cookie Script: “Third-party cookies are cookies that are set by a website other than the one you are currently on. For example, you can have a “Like” button on your website which will store a cookie on a visitor’s computer, that cookie can later be accessed by Facebook to identify visitors and see which websites they visited. Another example would be an advertising service (ex: Google Ads) which also creates a third-party cookie to monitor which websites were visited by each user. This is the main technology used to show you products that you previously searched for on a completely different website.”
To complete the picture, here is ClearCode on second-party cookies. “Second-party cookies are cookies that are transferred from one company (the one that created first-party cookies) to another company via some sort of data partnership. For example, an airline could sell its first-party cookies (and other first-party data such as names, email addresses, etc.) to a trusted hotel chain to use for ad targeting, which would mean the cookies become classed as second-party.”
More from Ionos on third-party cookies: “Third-party cookies are mostly used for web analytic purposes. This can happen if your web browser loads an advertisement or a so-called targeting pixel that is not hosted on the server of the visited website. Your web browser generates an additional cookie, the third-party cookie, because it is not assigned to the server of the website, but to that of the advertiser. Nevertheless, this third party cookie reads all the information that the first-party cookie notes anyway – and sometimes even more. Because web analysts are primarily interested in user behavior, the third-party cookie usually documents the page history on a website. However, this cookie often gains really valuable data only when it “recognizes” you on another website. Since your web browser communicates again with the same ad server, it can trace your path on the internet, and not only that: your behavior on the web reveals a lot about your interests and your consumer behavior. This creates a user profile that enables targeted and personalized advertising.”
Cookie Script once again: “Let’s say earlier in the week you looked up some vacation rentals in Cancun. You browsed a few websites, admired the photos of the sunsets and sandy beaches, but ultimately decided to wait another year before planning your vacation. A few days go by and suddenly it seems like you are seeing ads for Cancun vacations on many of the websites you visit. Is it a mere coincidence? Not really. The reason you are now seeing these ads on vacationing in Cancun is that your web browser stored a third-party cookie and is using this information to send you targeted advertisements.”