IT Pro is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Google looks to replace third-party cookies in two years

The online advertising market needs to shift to tracking methods that offer some user privacy, admits Google

Cookies are finally crumbling in Chrome — well, those used by third parties to track you around the web, not Google's own. 

Google said it will phase out third-party cookies in its Chrome browser, ending support within two years.  Third-party cookies are those used to track people as they move from page to page across the web. They've already been banned and blocked by Mozilla in its Firefox browser, as well as in Apple's Safari.

The cookie announcement is part of wider plans that Google has dubbed its Privacy Sandbox, which it says aims to find new ways to enhance privacy on the web — while still allowing advertising, of course, a fact that has drawn criticism that Google is simply protecting its own interests, not user privacy.

"Our goal for this open source initiative is to make the web more private and secure for users, while also supporting publishers," said Justin Schuh, director of Chrome Engineering, in a blogpost

Google — which makes the bulk of its revenue from advertising — is taking a different approach to rival browser makers, hoping to find new mechanisms to support behavioural and personalised marketing without third-party cookies before ditching them. 

"After initial dialogue with the web community, we are confident that with continued iteration and feedback, privacy-preserving and open-standard mechanisms like the Privacy Sandbox can sustain a healthy, ad-supported web in a way that will render third-party cookies obsolete," Schuh said. "Once these approaches have addressed the needs of users, publishers, and advertisers, and we have developed the tools to mitigate workarounds, we plan to phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome."

Schuh said trials of new ideas would begin this year, beginning with ways to track conversion and following with personalisation. For example, Google reportedly plans to track conversions by using an API that will send the necessary data from the browser to the advertiser requesting it without sharing any personal data. And, for personalisation, Google is considering ending individual personalisation in favour of smaller groups, such as letting ads be targeted to a clump of people with similar browsing habits or to those who have visited one or more of a group of websites. 

Those pilots will have to be tested for their impact on the internet ecosystem first and Google's own research suggests simply removing third-party cookies slashed publishers' revenue in half. Indeed, Schuh said that blocking third-party cookies outright — as rivals have done — has had "unintended consequences" for the web ecosystem, by which he means the online advertising system and those it supports, such as publishers.

"By undermining the business model of many ad-supported websites, blunt approaches to cookies encourage the use of opaque techniques such as fingerprinting (an invasive workaround to replace cookies), which can actually reduce user privacy and control," he said. "We believe that we as a community can, and must, do better."

The move to ditch cookies was sparked, Schuh says, by user demand for more privacy, which is shown by the rising use of ad-blockers. In the UK, the Internet Advertising Bureau's research suggests 23% of Brits use blockers, a number that has held steady for three years. 

Featured Resources

AI for customer service

IBM Watson Assistant solves customer problems the first time

View now

Solve cyber resilience challenges with storage solutions

Fundamental capabilities of cyber-resilient IT infrastructure

Free Download

IBM FlashSystem 5000 and 5200 for mid-market enterprises

Manage rapid data growth within limited IT budgets

Free download

Leverage automated APM to accelerate CI/CD and boost application performance

Constant change to meet fast-evolving application functionality

Free Download


Chrome vs Firefox vs Microsoft Edge
web browser

Chrome vs Firefox vs Microsoft Edge

19 Jul 2022
Asus Chromebook CX9 (CX9400CE) review: The most stylish Chromebook on the market

Asus Chromebook CX9 (CX9400CE) review: The most stylish Chromebook on the market

18 Jan 2022

Most Popular

How to boot Windows 11 in Safe Mode
Microsoft Windows

How to boot Windows 11 in Safe Mode

15 Nov 2022
The top 12 password-cracking techniques used by hackers

The top 12 password-cracking techniques used by hackers

14 Nov 2022
Windows users now able to run Linux apps and distros natively
Microsoft Windows

Windows users now able to run Linux apps and distros natively

24 Nov 2022