A cookie-free world: What you need to know and how to prepare


4 min read

Words by Wonderful Digital

Whether you’re gluten free, sugar intolerant or vegan it’s likely you’ve existed on aconsistent diet of cookies while traversing the internet these past many years. These tiny files live on the websites we visit and feed them with information about us. Cookies are helpful when logging onto frequently visited sites and brilliant at collecting data that a site can use (and share) for all manner of marketing purposes, in particular targeted ads – which can be a good or bad thing.


Raised on cookies


First Party Cookies are served fresh from the site you’re visiting and effective inkeeping you logged in and remembering who you are when you visit again. So we kinda like those.

Third Party Cookies are issued from an external party to the site and were once delivered without your consent until distributors were legally required to provide theoption to accept or decline via a pop-up.

Third Party Cookies are considered controversial as most users are apprehensive about being tracked and potentially having their private data put at risk. These cookies can also determine what ads you see on other sites you visit in the future, and let’s face it, that can be both handy and annoying in equal measure.


Why go cookieless?


The main reason for a cookie-free world is to reduce the risk of your private databeing used unlawfully or in a way in which you have not agreed to. Legally we must be given the option to accept or decline cookies, however complacency often sees us accept them out of habit. Some of the security risks that come with third party cookies include the distribution of our private data, malware installation, fraudulent purchases and hacking via session fixation, to name a few.

Many websites are already transitioning to a cookieless future that uses alternative methods to deliver the benefits of cookies such as session activity, login ease and helpful targeted ads.

By using first-party data like permanent web IDs and tools like Google’s Privacy Sandbox, we can still enjoy the personalisation aspects that cookies bring but without the data and privacy risks attached.

The impact of a cookieless world for marketers


Some might say without cookies, capturing the data required for targeted marketing becomes increasingly difficult. They will need to find better ways to build their own customer data, looking more closely at the customer journey and forging better relationships with relevant advertisers.

There are currently a number of alternatives being adopted such as Universal ID and Contextual Targeting and with Chrome doing away with cookies altogether by the middle of 2024, it is a case of adapting sooner rather than later.


For site owners


There’s a definite plus for site owners as it will encourage them to think about how they interact with visitors and perhaps improve the user experience. This can only be advantageous in terms of enhancing the customer journey and site design. Site owners will need to deploy alternative personal identifiers as a new and safer protocol for visitors.


For users


Naturally, users will benefit most from a cookieless world. No more annoying cookie pop-up requests and the ability to enjoy websites without the worry of being tracked, hacked or breached as a result of your data being captured. Trust can be rebuilt between users and the sites they visit, impacting positively on eCommerce.


So what are the alternatives?


The good news is there are a number of cookie alternatives being developed that cansatisfy the needs of users, site owners and in particular, marketers without compromising the customer journey or data capturing effort. Here are just a few to consider.


Probabilistic ID solutions – This approach builds a user profile by using soft signals that include browser type, device type, and other non-identifiable characteristics.  


First-party data – Put simply it’s the data shared directly from an audience, such as through an online form or a subscription based service.


Contextual targeting – Finally, a world where a relevant ad appears on a relatable site. This is targeting ad placement at its best.


Universal ID (UID) – Think of it as an identifier that is attached to a user and passes on information to approved partners.


Google’s Privacy Sandbox –  With third-party cookies being phased out, Google’s proposed alternative replaces them with application programming interfaces. These APIs provide anonymised information on conversions and attribution.

Where to from here?


Heads up - the cookieless future is already upon us. Some might come along kicking and screaming before Chrome buries third party cookies for good. The more we know about the alternatives being developed, the smoother the transition will be. The bright side is that websites will become more responsive to the needs of users and their experiences will be enhanced, free from the irritation of unwanted or repetitive ads and most importantly a safer place to explore, play, shop and connect where privacy and personal data is less at risk.