Third-party cookies got something of a stay of execution with Google announcing in a company blog post that it will be delaying by two years its plan to deprecate third-party cookies by the second quarter of 2022 as “it’s become clear that more time is needed across the ecosystem to get this right.”
Under the new timeline, Chrome will phase out support for third-party cookies over a three-month period finishing in late 2023.
What getting it right seems to mean in this case is giving a not-quite-ready world of publishers, advertisers and web developers more time to catch up to the market and develop reasonable alternatives to the third-party cookies on which they are presently reliant. Alternatives, Google noted, are actually an improvement over cookies.
“We as an industry can help ensure that cookies are not replaced with alternative forms of individual tracking, and discourage the rise of covert approaches like fingerprinting,” the post noted.
Google’s Unsurprising Surprising Move
Google’s decision to delay was surprising to some, given the level of emphasis the search giant has put on getting in line with Privacy Sandbox change requirements. According to a published report, pressure within ad tech companies and publishers have been at an all-time high as Google’s deadline for phasing out third-party cookies was viewed as unmovable. But Google has pushed back deadlines before and finds itself in unique circumstances, caught between a rock and a hard place.
Google at present has two concerns to balance, managing cookies and offering better privacy protections on its platform on one hand versus antitrust concerns that allege removing cookies would damage independent publishers and ad tech platforms on the other.
“Because of the importance of this mission, we must take time to evaluate the new technologies, gather feedback and iterate to ensure they meet our goals for both privacy and performance, and give all developers time to follow the best path for privacy,” Google noted in its blog post, adding that protecting privacy is a critical goal, but not one that ought to be pursued at the expense of “the business models of many web publishers which support freely available content.”
What the Phase Out Will Look Like When It Happens
Even when third-party cookies eventually do start to disappear from Google on the company’s new timetable, it will not be a change that happens overnight. Instead, cookies will begin to fade out over a three-month period.
Currently, third-party cookies can be set to operate for more than a year in some cases. During the three-month phase-out period in 2023, Google will start shortening the maximum duration of third-party cookies from months to weeks to days all the way down to nothing by the end of the phase out in late 2023.
At least that is the schedule as of now — since Google has said it will update the timeline with greater specificity as more data becomes available.