Are cookies going to disappear permanently?

February, 2024

After Google last year's announcement about completely getting rid of cookies by 2023, it now claims to put an end to them in 2024. Will it be true?

What are “cookies”? 

According to Google itself:

"Cookies are small files that are saved on users' computers to store preferences and other data used on the web pages they visit. Cookies can save user settings for certain websites, and sometimes they can be used to track how visitors arrive at and interact with those sites.”


How does Google use cookies? 

Google Analytics uses them to deliver your ads and free product listings and to track results. 
It also uses cookies in the conversion tracking feature of Google Ads, tracking sales and other ad conversions, adding a cookie to a user's computer when they click on an ad or a product listing.

Sometimes cookies can cause problems when logging in or navigating through the Google Ads account. In these cases, the best way to solve the problem is to clear the cache and cookies stored in the Internet browser. 

In summary, cookies are files created by various websites to store information about their users' browsing, collecting information about their interests, preferences, and activities. Thanks to them, sessions can be kept open, user preferences can be remembered, and relevant content can be provided to them.


Types of cookies: 

Before delving into the disappearance of cookies, it is important to understand the different types that exist, what they are used for, and how they can affect end users and digital marketing professionals when managing ads on this search engine.

There are currently 3 types of cookies:


1st party cookies: these are created from the domain serving the page and stored on the user's device during their interaction with the website, and only this domain can access them, subject to its privacy policy. They are useful for remembering user preferences, maintaining user sessions, and storing login information, so they are mainly used by website owners to enhance user experience and collect analytics on the use of their website.


2nd party cookies: these cookies are also created by a website and stored on the user's device during their interaction with that website. However, while 1st party cookies are created by the website the user is visiting, 2nd party cookies are created by a partner or affiliate of the visited website. 

These cookies are shared between two partners who have a direct relationship, such as a website and its commercial or advertising partner. These cookies are used, like 1st party cookies, to personalize the user experience, conduct market analysis, or advertise specific products and services. 

The information is not available in open markets and is subject to specific conditions between two or more parties. These cookies can raise concerns in terms of privacy and transparency in data collection and usage.


3rd party cookies: These are created by an external domain that is different from the domain serving the page, and therefore, they are accessible from any domain that loads the cookie. In other words, these cookies are placed in the user's browser by third parties. 

They are mainly used for advertising and tracking user behavior online, to track their activity across multiple websites.
This allows advertisers and other entities to collect information about users' browsing activities on various sites and create different user profiles to target specific ads based on past interests and behaviors. 

Depending on agreements, providers can sell data as many times and to as many buyers as they want. This has raised concerns in terms of privacy, as they can be used to track users without their explicit consent and share personal data with third parties without users being fully aware of it.


Are cookies going to disappear? 

Actually, cookies are not going to disappear because they are necessary for the proper functioning of websites. When we talk about the disappearance of cookies, we are referring just to 3rd party cookies. 


What does Google Analytics 4 want to do? 

Google Analytics wants to put cookies on the back burner with its new version Google Analytics 4 (GA4), thus betting on privacy. This, of course, will revolutionize the strategies of digital advertising carried out so far.

This new tool will have the following advantages:

-Improved measurement system
-Measurement of data from different sources, focused on the user.
-Unification of analysis
-New security controls where website data collection can be customized and the scope of information on Internet users reduced.

All this aims to help brands better understand audiences while preserving user privacy through the platform's machine learning.


How will analysis be done from now on? 

Google has been postponing the blocking of third-party cookies (although other browsers like Safari or Firefox have already done so) because retargeting would cease to be used, and currently, Google has not made an official communication about whether it will offer any alternative beyond its new GA4 measurement tool. 

What was done until now was to measure in detail the users who entered a website, while with this GA4 change, it will measure only a percentage of internet users in detail and will extrapolate the rest, working with predictive audiences, having a percentage of real data lower than the 100% used previously.


What impact will this have on digital advertising? 

All these changes will cause agencies, advertisers, and campaign managers to lose customization options, and specifically targeting tools based on user behavior, losing effectiveness in general terms in programmatic advertising campaigns, but alternatives will exist.

Customization will still be possible beyond third-party cookies, but the way audiences are targeted and segmented for digital advertising will change.

 Some of these alternatives once third-party cookies disappear may be the following:

1.    First-party data and zero-party data:

This alternative consists of using the data you already have access to, that is, continuing to use the data that customers share voluntarily and proactively, such as the information customers provide when making a purchase (purchase history, contact information...) or data intentionally shared by customers, such as purchase intentions, communication preferences…


2.    Contextual advertising:

Contextual advertising is related to the content of the web pages themselves, that is, the automated process of publishing different ads on pages based on their content, selecting ads based on keywords and other metadata included in the content, thus publishing relevant ads for users.

3.    Google's Privacy Sandbox:

Privacy Sandbox is an initiative led by Google, which seeks to develop alternative technologies to third-party cookies, to create web standards so that websites can access user information without compromising their privacy.
This way, brands will be able to continue using 1st party cookies to target ads to their target audience while protecting user data.

In conclusion:

Google's announcement about the end of cookies from 2023, which finally seems to be definitive in 2024, still raises questions about its truthfulness and the implications this will have for the digital ecosystem. 
While third-party cookies will indeed disappear, both 1st and 2nd party cookies will remain essential for personalization and data analysis. 

The transition to alternatives such as Google Analytics 4, the use of 1st party data and zero-party data, contextual advertising, and proposals from the privacy sandbox suggest a significant change in digital advertising strategies, seeking to balance effectiveness with user privacy protection.