The era of third-party cookies is crumbling, as Google officially initiated its phase-out with the launch of a privacy-focused feature called Tracking Protection. This new tool, active as of January 4th, 2024, restricts third-party cookie tracking by default for 1% of Chrome users worldwide. If you’re among the randomly chosen, get ready for a notification greeting you in Chrome on your desktop or Android device.
A blog by Google read, “Chrome is restricting third-party cookies by default for 1% of Chrome users to facilitate testing, and then ramping up to 100% of users from Q3 2024. The ramp up to 100% of users is subject to addressing any remaining competition concerns of the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).”
This is more than just a technical tweak – it’s a seismic shift for the digital marketing landscape. If your targeted advertising is fueled by third-party cookies, it’s time to hit the reset button on your strategies.
What Happens After The Cookie Crumbles?
Third-party cookies are those sneaky bits of data websites slip onto your device, even if you haven’t visited them directly. For nearly three decades, they’ve been part of the web and have tracked your online footsteps, building a profile used for personalised ads (ever wonder why you keep seeing ads for those shoes you almost bought?).
Google plans to completely ditch these privacy-invasive trackers by the latter half of 2024, so consider this a friendly wake-up call to prepare your websites and marketing tactics for a cookieless future.
In a blog, Google said, “With the Privacy Sandbox, we’re taking a responsible approach to phasing out third-party cookies in Chrome. We’ve built new tools for sites that support key use cases, and provided time for developers to make the transition. And as we introduce Tracking Protection, we’re starting with a small percentage of Chrome users so developers can test their readiness for a web without third-party cookies.”
How To Identify Third-Party Cookie Restrictions?
Chrome is now keeping a watchful eye on third-party cookies. When you visit a website that tries to access these tracking cookies, you’ll see this eye icon ️ appear in the address bar, like a watchful sentinel protecting your privacy.
“Browsers that are part of the 1% group will also see new Tracking Protection user controls,” the blog read. “You can try out these changes in Chrome 121 or higher by enabling chrome://flags/#test-third-party-cookie-phaseout.”
For browsers in the 1% group, users will get a new chrome://settings/trackingProtection page instead of chrome://settings/cookies:
What to Expect from Tracking Protection?
Some Chrome users are randomly chosen to help test a new privacy feature called Tracking Protection. If you’re picked, you’ll see a message when you open Chrome.
You can use the Tracking Protection dialog to temporarily allow third-party cookies.
What does it do? Tracking Protection limits how websites can track you across the internet by blocking “third-party cookies.” These are like tiny trackers that follow you everywhere you go online.
Does it break websites? Maybe. Some websites need these trackers to work properly. If you run into trouble, Chrome will warn you and offer a quick way to turn off Tracking Protection for just that website.
Do you have to do anything? Nope! If you’re chosen, Tracking Protection just works in the background. You can use Chrome as usual.
The ripple effects of Tracking Protection are already stirring the digital marketing community. Discussions on X (formerly known as Twitter) reveal a palpable sense of unease. Many advertisers feel caught unprepared for the impending demise of third-party cookies, and the scramble for alternative solutions is well underway.
Here’s what’s at stake:
- Personalised ads: The era of eerily accurate ad targeting based on your every online move is drawing to a close. Advertisers will need to find new ways to personalise ads while respecting user privacy.
- Website monetisation: For websites heavily reliant on third-party cookie-based advertising revenue, the future looks uncertain. New monetisation models like contextual advertising and direct sponsorships are likely to gain traction.
- Data-driven marketing: Marketers accustomed to gleaning insights from user data gleaned through third-party cookies will need to shift to first-party data strategies, building relationships with their customers to gather valuable information directly.
While the cookie crumbles and the Privacy Sandbox rolls out, this isn’t the end of the story. It’s the beginning of a new chapter in digital marketing, one where user privacy takes centre stage, and creativity and innovation pave the way for success.
What’s Next After the Tracking Protection feature?
Chrome’s Tracking Protection feature might shake things up for websites reliant on third-party cookies. This new tool, championing user privacy, restricts third-party tracking by default for 1% of Chrome users worldwide.
But before you hit that “re-enable” button, a quick refresher:
Websites heavily reliant on third-party cookies might encounter glitches when users refresh pages in Chrome. Be prepared to offer temporary cookie re-enablement, but remember, this is just a band-aid, not a long-term solution.
Personalised ad targeting based on third-party cookie crumbs is nearing its expiration date. Time to get creative and explore alternative strategies like contextual advertising, direct sponsorships, and building your own first-party data.
The demise of the third-party cookie is a catalyst for change. It’s time for a privacy-centric future where user trust and innovative ad solutions reign supreme. Google says it is all set to “provide businesses with tools to succeed online so that high quality content remains freely accessible — whether that’s news articles, videos, educational information, community sites or other forms of web content.”
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