April 24, 2023
On the web, the term “cookies” doesn’t refer to baked goods. Digital cookies are small files that websites use to identify users. As someone scrolls, cookies collect information such as their username, password, and email address. This technology was first introduced in the mid-1990s by Microsoft. Since then, cookies have become a multibillion dollar industry. Marketers use them to collect insights, understand their consumer base, and create targeted ads.
While no one can bite into a digital cookie, just like the baked ones, people have their preferences. First-party cookies are kind of like chocolate chip cookies—they’re popular and safe. Information collected by first-party cookies is directly stored by the website that you scroll through. First-party cookies are favored by consumers because they explicitly request consent. In contrast, third-party cookies are more controversial and less transparent. Just like an oatmeal raisin cookie you think is chocolate chip, they can be deceptive. Like the name suggests, this cookie type is served by third parties. What does that mean? Unlike first-party cookies which only track you on their own website, third-party cookies track you on other websites. Have you ever gone to one website, left and gone to another but started getting ads from the previous site you visited? That’s because of third-party cookies. Though this strategy is effective for marketers, many people find it creepy. They don’t want to be followed as they surf the web. Additionally, people dislike how third-party cookies track them without explicit consent.
With consumer privacy concerns on the rise, browsers are taking action. Apple has limited first-party cookie validity to 24 hours, Firefox has blocked all third-party cookies, with Google announcing it will soon do the same. Marketers could stomach Firefox and Safari’s changes but with over 65% of internet users using Google Chrome, their planned removal of cookies caused concern. This shift away from third-party cookies has been dubbed “the cookieless future.”
The fall of third-party cookies marks a huge win for data-conscious consumers. This change will enhance privacy and protection within the data economy. On the other hand, it’s understandable why some businesses might fear the cookieless future. After all, cookies are still popular in the marketing industry. A recent study found that 51% of senior marketers in the U.S. still considered cookies as a vital tool.