Death is nigh for third-party cookies, AKA tracking cookies. Firefox and Safari already block them, and Google is set to follow suit in the not-so-far-off future. And might just set in motion the biggest disruption the digital advertising sector has witnessed in its entire history.
End of the Road
Google first announced plans to do away with tracking cookies in February 2020. This was set to take place over the next couple of years as the company worked to "address the needs of publishers, marketers, and users," in addition to "developing tools to mitigate workarounds." For that matter, Google is implementing the phase-out as part of a larger move to enhance privacy by keeping personally-identifiable user information within their ecosystem. That means no more support for third-party cookies on any of the company's products; as of late 2023 according to the most recent announcement.
A New Reality in Digital Advertising
Critics have claimed that Google's decision to phase out tracking cookies is no more than a power move to fortify its own industry position --- specifically by taking away its competitors ability to target users using third-party data. Still, this purge comes in the wake of rising privacy concerns and a growing public awareness. Combined with stricter data use regulations, these developments have significantly diminished the effectiveness of tracking cookies in recent years. So it's fair to say that the writing was already on the wall before the tech giant even announced their plans.
But that, of course, doesn't make the phase-out any less disruptive. Without the ability to track users across the web, ad personalization options will shrink dramatically. Brands will have to find creative ways to collect data directly from their target audiences through first-party cookies. Or better still, they could just utilize platforms that already have rich user databases (social media sites and the like).
Publishers and other websites that rely on ad revenue stand to lose a significant chunk of their income in this new world (up to 70% by Google's own account). Although Google have stated they will provide support for publishers in this new world, only time will tell how they'll adapt. A few might choose to gate their content behind paywalls, and other publishers will probably launch their own ad solutions if that still doesn't generate enough revenue.
The demise of (third-party) cookie-based targeting is also expected to herald the comeback of contextual advertising. Most people discounted the concept when it originally came up, but serving ads based on keywords and content will become the 'next big thing.' Advertisers who've invested heavily in AI and other predictive technologies can consequently look forward to great fortunes in times to come.
A Few Good Minutes on Google's Tracking Cookie Delay