The End of Third-Party Cookies: What You Need to Know

The End of Third-Party Cookies: What You Need to Know

May 20th, 2024

Keeping track of online activity has become increasingly challenging for marketers due to constant platform changes and stricter privacy rules. Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about the end of cookies, which has caused some confusion. Many brands are still figuring out how this will impact their digital marketing strategies. Let’s shed some light on the changes by first understanding what cookies are and how they work.

What Are Cookies?

Cookies are small text files stored by your browser when you visit a website. They serve multiple purposes, including:

● Storing login information

● Saving preferences like language and font size

● Keeps track of shopping cart items

● Identifying users with a unique ID

● Tracking the pages you visit

Cookies can be temporary (expiring after a session) or persistent (stored until you delete them).

Why Are They Called Cookies?

The term “cookie” comes from “magic cookies,” a computing term referring to an exchange of information between two programs. Lou Montulli, a developer in the mid-90s, introduced the term “cookie” in the context of the internet. Like a fortune cookie, which contains a snippet of advice, internet cookies contain important information about your activity on a website.

First-Party vs. Third-Party Cookies

Websites you visit create First-party cookies, which can only be accessed by that site. These cookies improve user experience by remembering your preferences. For example, an e-commerce site might use cookies to keep track of your shopping cart items.

Third-party cookies are created by websites other than the one you’re currently visiting. They track your activity across multiple sites, gathering data about your browsing habits for advertising purposes. This “tracking” is how ad networks know to show you targeted ads. For instance, if you’ve been searching for flights, you might see ads for hotels and car rentals on other sites.

What’s Changing?

First-party cookies remain unaffected. However, most browsers are now blocking third-party cookies. Privacy-focused browsers like Firefox, Brave, and Safari have done this for years, and Google Chrome started blocking third-party cookies by default in 2024. Given Chrome’s dominance, this change is significant.

On January 4, 2024, Google began blocking third-party cookies by default for 1% of users, with plans to increase this to 100% by Q3 2024.

How Will This Affect Your Business?

While other browsers have weakened third-party cookies, Chrome’s upcoming phase-out marks a significant shift. Chrome will continue tracking users through different methods, with anonymized and categorized data sent to Google or other parties. Learn more about The Privacy Sandbox initiative.

Meta’s Pixel defaults to first-party cookies but still uses third-party cookies for cross-website tracking. Meta can still determine users’ interests with data from its own platforms, and its Conversions API helps fill tracking gaps.

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is designed for a cookieless world. It relies only on first-party cookies and uses statistical modeling to fill tracking gaps.

Overall, the most significant impact will be targeting accuracy, not attribution. Publishers may feel a bigger impact than marketers since advertising networks rely heavily on third-party cookies. If you don’t run programmatic advertising, there’s less cause for concern.

Digital Marketers anticipated this gradual change for years, and platforms have adapted accordingly. More importantly, there’s no reason to panic. If you’ve been using third-party cookies for your marketing campaign, most seasoned digital marketers are prepared with marketing alternatives based on privacy concerns.

If you have questions about third-party cookies or digital marketing strategy, contact Power Marketing.