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Third-Party Cookies: Google Delays Phase Out Until 2023

Two years ago, Google announced that the end of third-party cookies was nigh. However, six months into 2021, just shy of the 2022 phase-out, the search engine made another shocking announcement:

Third-party cookies have a few more years to live.

Why the delay? Over the past two years, Google has instilled a sense of urgency into every agency, publisher, and advertiser. Why, then, the sudden stay of execution? That’s exactly what we’ll be exploring today.

In this article, we’re going to:

  • Quickly cover why third-party cookies are going away.
  • Mention some of Google’s alternative targeting solutions.
  • Explain why Google has delayed the process.
  • Discuss the benefits of the delay.

Let’s start by looking back at why Google decided to phase out third-party cookies.

Why Third-Party Cookies Are Going Away

If you don’t already know, let’s do a quick refresh. In 2020, Google announced that it planned to do away with third-party cookies. That meant it would join competitors like Apple and Mozilla in removing the feature from its popular Chrome browser.

The announcement came after concerns about user data privacy reached new heights, particularly since ads based on third-party cookies could target users based on information or behaviors they don’t want to share. Additionally, many users felt that ads based on third-party cookies were aggressive and intrusive, while the targeting process lacked consent and transparency.

Ultimately, the phase-out goal is to rebuild trust between advertisers and consumers by giving users control over their own data.

Google’s Alternatives And Privacy Sandbox

Before we can explain the reason for the delay, we first need to mention Google’s Privacy Sandbox and third-party cookie alternatives.

The phasing out of third-party cookies means that advertisers, agencies, and ad tech companies will need to find new ways to target users. With Google dominating digital advertising, it should come as no surprise that the search engine giant is leading the search for a targeting alternative.

Google has already announced several alternative solutions, some having gone through trials already. The biggest flop was FLoC or “Federated Learning of Cohorts.” Many browsers, vendors, and data privacy organizations have outright refused to use the targeting system, primarily since it’s still fundamentally flawed when it comes to protecting user data.

New Third-Party Cookies Timeline: Why The Delay? 

Since the announcement in 2020 and the apparent failure of FLoC, Google started working on new targeting, fraud protection, and privacy methods. This is due, in part, to struggles with the CMA (U.K. Competition and Markets Authority). Regulators are working closely with Google to develop technologies that can safely replace third-party cookies while protecting users and their privacy.

Keep in mind that Google is, essentially, attempting to develop new targeting, advertising, and privacy technologies that will set a new standard for the open web. It’s a complex task, and several international regulatory bodies are keeping a close eye on its efforts.

According to the blog post announcing the delay, Google claims that it needs to “move at a responsible pace.” Regulatory bodies and the public at large need time to review and discuss possible solutions, while the advertising industry needs time to migrate their services to whatever new technology Google releases.

In short, Google won’t phase out third-party cookies until mid-to-late 2023, allowing time for the development of new solutions, review by regulatory bodies, and ad tech migrations. A new timeline is available on Privacy Sandbox in the spirit of transparency.

Now Is The Time To Act

Make no mistake - this is a temporary stay of execution. Third-party cookies will be leaving us within the next few years; the growing emphasis on user privacy leaves no other option. Google’s delay of the phase-out shouldn’t be viewed as a problem but as an opportunity.

While Google, the CMA, and other regulatory bodies figure out the best way to proceed without cookies, publishers, agencies, and brands have a unique chance to fill the technological gap without the involvement of big tech. The value of first-party data is higher than ever, and website owners need to look into ways to use that data to their advantage.

Additionally, now is the time for publishers and advertisers to build advertising strategies that don’t depend on third-party cookies. Those who do will undoubtedly have a head start when Google eventually does away with third-party cookies entirely.

At rev•amp, we’ve already started working on - and launching - new solutions that don’t rely on third-party cookies. Contextual targeting, for example, is a fantastic way to protect your revenue, and it’s 100% independent from third-party cookies. Another solution we’re working on for tech-orientated download sites is Intent-based advertising, which fits seamlessly into the download funnel.

To summarize, whether you’re a publisher, agency, or advertiser, now is the time to prepare for the eventual “death” of third-party cookies.

Conclusion

Although Google won’t phase out third-party cookies for at least another year, that doesn’t mean the industry can relax its preparations for the eventuality. In fact, now is the perfect time to get your ducks (or targeting and ad strategies) in line and prepare for a cookieless future. Not only will you be protecting your revenue, but you’ll also be well ahead of competitors when the eventual phase-out occurs.

Richard is the Adtech Product Lead at Softonic. As Adtech Product Lead, Richard is responsible for improving overall revenue and ad performance for all our properties, including rev•amp, Softonic’s new publisher monetization platform. Within rev•amp Richard oversees development for the rev•amp monetization stack, both innovations and the improvement of existing technologies.
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