With the clear intention of being more user-friendly, web browsers such as Firefox and Safari are now blocking third-party cookies. The block is “user-friendly” because it helps ease users’ minds as to whether or not their privacy is protected.
But third-party cookies usually are not used with malicious intent; they’re used by small-time publishers to sell online ads. These ads, usually run through an ad network, are then specifically targeted for the website’s audience based on user behaviors. Obviously, the decline in third-party cookies will greatly affect these small publishers, who don’t, or can’t, keep reader information.
Blocking third-party cookies will likely result in a random ad experience for users. For instance, you might start seeing ads for fishing equipment on a sports or parenting blog. While you may not think that’s annoying initially, blocking cookies will allow advertisers who spend the most money to dominate the ad. So, it won’t be out of the question to see that same fishing equipment ad dominating the website where you spend the most time. You might even see that same fishing equipment ad over and over again, for three months. Then, it might get a tad annoying, especially if you live in a land-locked area, or you’re not into fishing.
While third-party cookies make users more “trackable,” they also ensure that users aren’t inundated with the same ads over and over again. Users are presented with ads that are more relevant to them and their interests. Third-party cookies help publishers to improve the users’ online experience, as they can see what sites and content users find most engaging.
Naturally, when the little guys lose out on ad revenue with the demise of third-party cookies, it creates an arena in which large publishers, such as Facebook and Google, can capitalize, as reported in a recent AdWeek article. The ad dollars once allocated for these third-party ad networks will now go toward companies with the most user data. Facebook and Google are perfectly geared for this as their massive user bases, coupled with their numerous products and properties, provide them with a plethora of sortable data for publishers to users.
This sort of setup could lead to a world in which every single website you read, no matter how big or small, can potentially be connected to your Facebook or Google+ pages, which in turn provides your browsing habits and personal information to publishers and/or advertising companies. And although it would be a more transparent process, wasn’t the whole point of moving away from third-party cookies to protect users’ privacy?