The Great 2022 Website Cookie Phase-Out Is Coming

Most of us love cookies. That’s why when a website you’re visiting is offering free cookies you’re initially receptive. Then you find out you’re not getting chocolate and sparkles.

But nothing is free and the bargain - third-party website cookies - has funded free web publishing since the 1990s. 

Website cookies are text files with small pieces of data used to identify your computer. Cookies then track and collect data from your web browser, sending this data back to the website owner. A first-party website cookie is set by the publisher's web server. A third-party website cookie is usually set by an advertising vendor.

Website cookies were invented by Lou Montulli for Netscape in 1994. 

  • Good: When you revisit a website, website cookies can remember cart items, logins and preferences.
  • Bad: Unencrypted websites (no lock icon) allow third parties to steal website cookies and accumulated cookies on a browser could slow your computer.

Before ad blockers, some consumers developed a good habit of clearing their website cookie caches. Other users would share their browser with others in their house or office. This would leave data that advertisers were seeking very noisy and incomplete.

Website cookies are not dangerous and will not infect your computer with harmful viruses or malware. But nonetheless, third-party cookies are an invasion of privacy to many users. More website users are demanding greater privacy including transparency, choice, and control over how their personal data is used.

Did You Know?

  • Website cookies are used by 36.9% of all the websites
  • Websites use around 20 cookies on average
  • Google accounts for 26.65% of all tracking cookies
  • Pew Research said 72% of Americans worry that what they do online is being tracked by advertisers and tech firms

Phase-Out in January 2022

The death of third-party cookies comes amid backlash against the digital surveillance that advertisers routinely deploy. The public has become very vocal about ad tracking. The European Union enacted the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 to regulate website cookies. This act has spawned copycats. Apple has announced software updates that will make it much harder for advertisers to track what users do in apps and mobile browsers.

The complete phase-out of third-party website cookies is coming in January of 2022. Safari and Firefox, the world’s second and third most popular web browsers, already block third-party cookies by default to protect users’ privacy. Google Chrome—which controls two-thirds of the browser market—will follow suit next month. When Google pulls the plug on website cookies, no one will be left using browsers that support third-party cookie tracking. Third-party cookies will become extinct.

What's Next: Google's Privacy Sandbox

Google has developed the Privacy Sandbox, which would collect information about what a user does online and save that data on their computer. Based on the websites users visited and the content they viewed, the browser would assign each individual user to a cohort alongside several thousand people with similar interests. Then, every time that person visits a website, their browser would tell the site which cohort they belong to, and advertisers would display ads custom to people with interests like theirs. The cohorts would update every week, to keep ad targeting relevant and make it harder to identify the individual members of each group.


So, you’re still being tracked, just not so much individually. Enjoy fewer website cookies in 2022 and more of the actual tasty ones!

 

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Topics: Digital Advertising, Marketing Communications, integrated marketing, Marketing Strategy, Google Search

Kevin Cesarz

Written by Kevin Cesarz

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