Netscape programmer Lou Montulli created “cookies” back in ’94 as a way to track user selections in a virtual shopping cart. Since, cookies have evolved into a crucial system for advertisers to track users’ desktop browsing activity.
Now, the rise of mobile threatens to end cookies’ long reign over the internet: a recent marketing survey revealed that 60% of marketers predict they won’t rely on third-party tracking cookies in the next 2 years.
What’s wrong with cookies?
For one, cookies track browsers, not people. This worked back when we all logged into the family desktop to do our internetting, but these days, most people switch back and forth between multiple connected devices, making cookies less effective for tracking a user’s overall web activity.
Cookies also don’t work within mobile apps (which make up the majority of people’s usage on mobile). And recently, browsers like Safari have banned third-party cookies from their platforms altogether.
Advertisers have transitioned to “identity-based” tracking
Facebook, for example, lets users use their Facebook credentials to log onto other sites and apps, allowing them to track user mobile sessions across multiple platforms and serve up personalized ads accordingly.
For its part, Apple assigns a unique “identifier for advertisers,” or IDFA, to every iOS user, allowing them to attribute activity to a single person across the Apple ecosystem (and Google’s Ad ID operates much the same way on Android).
In other words, as long as there are products to sell, advertisers will find a way to track us.
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