The cookie is dead. Long live the cookie!
Google, the internet search giant, said last week that it was done with us as we skated on the rink. It promises not to accept substitutes that do essentially the same thing after eliminating the use of third-party cookies within the next year.
This does not mean that Google will not continue to search for first-party information that it collects directly from users when they visit sites or services that they control. This does not mean that all the cars in the other place that identify the mountain passes of the web, serve them with advertisements, other motions in accordance with their special interests, are going to evaporate.
But that does mean a very special, early chapter in the Internet age is coming to an end. That era was defined by computer-based web browsers, which have been empowered by a number of innovations, and cookies are, at least, equal to the first. Cookies allow the browser to remember its users, making the web much easier to navigate. They helped popularize and trade the network, eventually spawning, alas, a space where privacy was easily compromised; the same advertisements for the same leather shoes, windows, notices, and other corks were attached to users wherever they went.
Lou Montuli, a computer programmer working for Netscape Communications, an incomprehensible startup, invented cookies in 1994. He called them “magic cookies”, which were posted by data scientists to perform routine computer operations, and his blog offers a clear rationale for them.
Without cookies, “every time a user clicked to move to another page, they became ‘this random user, could in no way link them to an action they had performed just minutes earlier,” he wrote. he: “It’s a bit like talking to someone with Alzheimer’s disease. “As a result of each interaction, you have to re-present yourself.”
The Netscape browser, which is available for any computer, has made a sensation with its debut, effectively signaling the beginning of the Internet age. Within a few years, first-party cookies were transformed into third-party cookies, and companies like DoubleClick (later acquired by Google) used them to serve advertisers to users wherever they went. They also allowed companies to seize, reverse, and sell people’s data without their permission. Concerns about privacy were growing, and at that time Montulli’s power was so great that the decision to turn off third-party cookies was left to him.
Montulli preferred to leave them in place, convinced that their presence was as transparent and manageable as possible. “If cookies were uprooted, advertisers would find new tools to do the same thing,” he wrote. “We would trade one problem for another.”
In the decades that followed, the ubiquitous, almost inevitable, rise of digital advertising, with retail, publishing, entertainment, and communication titans on the way, was displaced or rediscovered. As my Bloomberg colleague Alex Webb said last week, most of the internet was just “free” as the advertising gold mine paved the way for users to share detailed information about their valuable ships via cookies.
Google emerged as a colony in that world before the social media revolution turned Facebook into a viable competitor. Nearly three-quarters of the $ 300 billion spent on web advertising in 2020, Google և Facebook jointly, according to the World Advertising Research Council. Now that regulators around the world are tightening their grip on Google, Facebook և other technology giants with privacy issues և anti-competitive behavior, the cookie is on the cutting edge.
Technological change also contributed to the destruction of cookies. Consumers have spent years moving to mobile devices, applications that are less efficient with web-based cookies than desktops used to be. Apple’s Safari Browser և Mozilla’s Firefox Browser already has default settings that block third-party cookies, so Google will play by accepting more of the same in its Chrome browser. It is still a seismic event when a company that thrives on cookie-related advertising revenue decides to stop it.
Google is also not worried about its business model threatening. Marketers have been preparing for this moment for years; they have already developed cookie alternatives that will allow them to keep track of how people navigate the web, despite the less specifics of what each one does on multiple sites. Google has already developed digital tools as part of a “privacy sandbox” that serves ads aimed at like-minded groups of people, not individuals.
According to analysts at Bloomberg Intelligence, new artificial intelligence technologies և machine learning improvements are likely to continue to make advertising targeting accurate և profitable. Companies that do not accept the “risk of destruction” of AI, say analysts. So don’t wait for Google to release this one. It has alternatives to delivering targeted ads, and instead of pursuing that abuse as a vile stalker, it is more likely to do so anonymously. And its first-party data, the information that is still vacuumed when users use its products, is likely to become more valuable as third-party data sources shrink.
“People should not accept that they are on the Internet to get the benefits of relevant advertising,” wrote David Temkin, CEO of Google, when his company announced that it would find alternatives to the digital ankle bracelet. “And advertisers do not need to follow individual consumers on the Internet to get the most out of digital advertising.”
So the way we interact with users will change, but it is unclear how much they will say, if there are any, individuals will have control over it.
The cookie is dead. Long live the cookie!
Timothy L. O’Brien is a senior columnist for Bloomberg Opinion.