Back in February 2020, Google announced that they would be taking web privacy to a new level, by phasing out every marketer’s favourite snack, cookies. (Well, third party ones.)

Whether you love them, hate them or simply ignore them, cookies have played a vital part in all our digital lives.

Just like their sweet namesake, there are lots of variations of cookies and it’s the third party kind, that google is giving the boot.

But before we introduce their replacement, let us take the time to remind you about cookies.

What are cookies? And how do they work?

In their simplest form, cookies are small text files that are added to your browser or smartphone, almost any time you visit a website.

This data is collected to better understand a user's interests and online habits, with the end goal of improving user experience.

While collecting data might sound invasive, it is cookies that remind you about items left in your shopping cart and help to make your time online more personalised.

Third party cookies enable websites to follow users around the web to continuously learn more about a users browsing habits.

The data collected by third party cookies, helps marketing professionals identify users that are most likely to interact with a product or service, so they can be brought together through advertising.

 

So why is Google losing them?

Well, the short answer is privacy. Similarly to Apple, who’s IOS14 update will allow users to opt-out of targeting or tracking at an app level, Google’s refinement will enable users to take back more control over their online privacy.

Google Ads, is the largest ad market in the world and rather than directly replace third party cookies, Google have announced they do not intend to replace them with “alternative identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web.”

Google’s alternative to third party cookies, is the interestingly named ‘FLoC’ (The Federated Learning of Cohorts).

FLoC is a privacy-focused solution and in Google’s eyes, will ultimately replace the need for third party tracking cookies.

What is Google’s FLoC?

FLoC is Google’s answer to interest based advertising, but with added privacy.

Google intends to group together anonymous users based on their interests, into what they call Cohorts.

By grouping users together, Chrome will alert websites that a member of Cohort xxxxxx has arrived, rather than an individual browser.

It will then be down to each website individually to learn what each cohort’s interests are.

grid of people

If you’re worried about being picked last for your Cohort team, don’t be. Each cohort will be built with thousands of members, who’s individual browsing history and data will remain private.

Chrome will automatically assign users to a relevant cohort using browsing history and online habits.

For example, any pizza loving space enthusiasts, will unknowingly be part of the same cohort, so their ad experience is related to those interests.

Despite the original plan to release FLoC in March, Google are yet to introduce the solution to Europe.

There is however early speculation that Google believes FLoC is delivering 95% of the conversions, accredited to cookie-based advertising. If these statistics are to be believed, the impact could be less impactful to the world of digital marketing, than originally feared.

As of March 2021, Google has stated that “initial testing of FLoC is taking place with a small percentage of users in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines and the U.S. We’ll expand to other regions as the Privacy Sandbox expands globally.”

While we wait for the changes to be implemented, it’s important to remember that this isn’t the first time digital marketers have been forced to adapt and it certainly won’t be the last.

While losing reliable features of Google Ads will hurt, the idea of FLoC and a safer more private society certainly doesn’t seem like a bad thing.

And after all, isn’t problem solving one of the main reasons we work in this profession?