Jan 14, 2020 - Technology

Google to phase out third-party cookies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

Google said on Tuesday that it plans to phase out support for third-party cookies in its popular web browser, Chrome, within the next two years.

Why it matters: Chrome is the last major internet browser to discontinue cookies, which means that the end of the decades-old tracking technology is finally in sight.

  • Chrome is the most widely used desktop browser in the U.S. and the second-most widely used mobile browser in the U.S. behind Safari.

Details: Unlike its rivals Apple and Mozilla, which started blocking third-party cookies by default in their browsers last year, Google says it plans to take a more gradual approach to phasing out cookies.

  • "Some browsers have reacted to these concerns by blocking third-party cookies, but we believe this has unintended consequences that can negatively impact both users and the web ecosystem," said Justin Schuh, director of Chrome Engineering in a company blog post.
  • Instead, Chrome has introduced new technologies that it hopes will enable marketers to target users efficiently online without raising user privacy or security concerns.
  • Schuh said in the post that this phased-out approach stops businesses that are being impacted by the changes from taking "blunt approaches" to working around the new policies that could risk user security.

Be smart: The move will force the digital advertising and marketing industries to adjust their businesses to be more privacy-focused.

  • For decades, advertisers relied on cookies to track users across the web and to retarget them with ads, particularly on their desktops.
  • But over the past few years, marketers began moving away from using cookies to track user browser data and instead developed better methods of tracking people across the web. These tactics are considered more effective and secure, especially since fewer people use desktop browsers these days, and most rely more heavily on mobile.

The big picture: The advertising ecosystem has evolved dramatically over the past few years as privacy regulation has evolved and consumer expectations toward privacy have increased.

  • Google rivals Apple and Mozilla already began blocking third-party cookies last year for their respective web browsers, Safari and Firefox.
  • Verizon on Tuesday launched its own privacy-focused browser called OneSearch.
  • DuckDuckGo, a decade-old, privacy-centric search engine, has seen a spike in searches over the past few years.

Go deeper: The death of the internet cookie

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