The Gist

  • Privacy First: Privacy Sandbox APIs to be launched in July, allowing websites to test traffic in a cookie-less environment.
  • Timely Transition: Starting Q4 2023, developers can simulate third-party cookie deprecation for part of their user base.
  • Phase-Out Progress: Google plans to eliminate third-party cookies for 1% of Chrome users in Q1 2024, ahead of a complete phase-out in the second half of 2024.

Google still plans to fully deprecate third-party cookies tracking in the second half of 2024. But 1% of users will see it end sooner.

Google announced this week that in Q1 of 2024, it plans to stop allowing third-party cookies for 1% of people who use Chrome, an action company officials say will “support developers in conducting real world experiments that assess the readiness and effectiveness of their products without third-party cookies.” The search giant did not specify who would be among that 1%.

What comes before that big move this year?

  • July 2023: About every four weeks Chrome releases a full operating system update that typically includes improvements to speed, performance or security. But as part of an upcoming update in July, Google will begin making Privacy Sandbox APIs available to everyone who uses Chrome. And for companies who haven’t yet addressed the imminence of a world without third-party cookies — Google says it’s a critical time to plan the transition and evaluate integrating the APIs into their products.
  • Q4 of 2023: Google will enable developers to mimic Chrome’s third-party cookie deprecation within a simulated environment in which third-party cookies are not allowed for a certain percentage of their users.

Then comes the next big move: Q1 of 2024, when Google plans to actually stop allowing third-party cookies for 1% of people who use Chrome. According to Google officials, the plan was created in consultation with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Related Article: What Does Marketing Look Like Without Third-Party Cookies?

Google's Approach to Phasing out Third-Party Cookies: Strategy or Stalling?

Much like the journey of Hansel and Gretel, third-party cookies are like digital breadcrumbs you drop (often unintentionally) as you roam through the vast forest of the Internet — leaving a trail of where you've been and what you've been interested in. In other words, a marketer's and customer experience professional's dream.

But instead of a wicked witch at the end of this trail, there's an eager advertiser that’s been following your breadcrumbs with a shopping cart full of items they're certain you'll love. However, breadcrumbs can be a bit messy and sometimes, we'd rather stroll through the woods without someone tailing us — no matter how perfect their product recommendations might be.

Amid demands from privacy advocates and regulators for enhanced consumer data privacy protections, other browsers like Safari and Firefox have blocked third-party cookies since 2013. But Google waited until 2020 to announce it would phase them out in 2022 — a move that was eventually delayed to 2024 because Google reportedly wanted to give advertisers more time to adjust their marketing tactics.

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: What Does Marketing Look Like Without Third-Party Cookies?

Customer Data Privacy Always the Goal

Third-party cookies have served as a crucial part of the online advertising ecosystem for more than a decade, enabling targeted advertising based on user behavior across different sites. And because Chrome has a significant share of the browser market, the sudden removal of third-party cookies would likely disrupt the company’s prime revenue stream — advertising.

But Victor Wong, senior director of product management for Privacy Sandbox, inferred that there’s more to it than just that. Sharing his thoughts in a blog last month, he revealed that instead of doing it the quick way, Google wanted to do it the right way.

“Some major platforms have attempted to address these privacy concerns with changes that disrupt how the internet works today, and which make it harder for publishers to support their businesses through digital advertising,” Wong said. “Such changes risk turning broad access to quality online content from ‘free’ to ‘fee.’ Without effective ads, content will migrate behind paywalls or disappear altogether, disenfranchising billions of people who rely on this information in their daily lives.”

In what the company calls "an ecosystem-wide initiative," they want to offer Privacy Sandbox as a tool to help businesses succeed online amid the changing landscape. 

"With this milestone, developers can utilize these APIs to conduct scaled, live-traffic testing, as they prepare to operate without third-party cookies," Anthony Chavez, VP of Privacy Sandbox, said in a statement. "Prior to third-party cookie deprecation, we don’t plan to make any significant changes to the API interfaces. Companies who haven’t already done so should evaluate integrating these APIs into their products as they plan their transition to more private solutions."

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