News Byte: Google May Be Giving Up on Cookies

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News Byte: Google May Be Giving Up on Cookies
News Byte: Google May Be Giving Up on Cookies

Google is reportedly planning to ditch third-party cookies for an anonymous identifier for advertising called AdID. USA Today, which broke the story, cites an unidentified source claiming that AdID would completely replace third-party cookies as the tool marketers use to track an individual's online browsing activity.

Cookies are text files that store information about a user's website visit; they allow ad networks and exchanges to identify the same user across a multitude of websites, enabling the serving of targeted ads. Third-party cookies are those placed by an external website, whereas first-party cookies are placed by the website the individual is actually visiting.

Third-party cookies, which have been one of the most reliable ways to track online consumers, have recently fallen out of favor among the major Web browser providers. Microsoft's Internet Explorer, for instance, automatically shuts off Do Not Track features until the user turns them on. Apple's Safari shuts down third-party cookies by default. And Mozilla's Firefox has been flirting with doing the same.

However, for nearly a year Google's Chrome has been the most popular Web browser in the world, according to statistics from Web analytics firms Clicky and StatCounter. This ultimately puts Google in the seat of power when it comes to determining what types of tracking technologies are used in online advertising, says Ken Wisnefski, president and CEO of digital marketing company WebiMax.com.

At the same time, he suspects the net benefit of AdID will lie with customers instead of advertisers. “So far from what I've read, [AdID] tracks less on an individualized basis and more [on] an anonymous basis," he says. "It's less geared toward specific users and more geared toward trends and patterns.”

Google has not yet made any public announcement on the reported AdID technology, and there remain unanswered questions—for instance the extent to which AdID will work tracking mobile users, or its compatibility with non-Google browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari.

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