In a significant shift, Google Chrome will begin blocking websites from using third-party cookies starting on January 4th. Initially, this change will only affect 1% of users on computers and Android phones, but it will eventually be extended to all Chrome users by the end of 2024. Blocking third-party cookies is a momentous change for the web, as cookies have been widely used to track online behavior. With Chrome being the dominant browser, accounting for 63% of web usage, this move will have a significant impact.
While major browser competitors like Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox, and Brave have already implemented cookie-blocking measures, Google has been more cautious due to concerns about undermining the online advertising industry. However, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority intervened in 2021, expressing concerns that Google’s blocking of third-party cookies would give an unfair advantage to its own advertising business.
Cookies have various uses, including remembering language preferences, protecting against fraud, and simplifying site logins. Many of these uses involve first-party cookies rather than third-party cookies set by advertisers or social networks. However, third-party cookies have been known to track users across the web, collecting personal information and selling it to other parties. The removal of third-party cookies will address privacy concerns but may lead to more surreptitious tracking methods like fingerprinting, which identifies characteristics of a user’s computing device.
Google is actively working on alternatives to replace some of the functionalities offered by cookies. For instance, they are developing a programming interface called Topics to facilitate targeted advertising without tracking website activity. However, other browsers like Safari and Firefox do not currently support this interface. Google aims to strike a balance between privacy and supporting businesses by providing tools for online success while ensuring high-quality content remains freely accessible.
It’s worth noting that the schedule for implementing these changes has been delayed several times in recent years, but Google remains committed to transitioning away from third-party cookies.