How Cookie Alternatives From Microsoft and Google Stack Up

Strengths, Weaknesses -- and What the Critics Say

By Published on .

Microsoft plans to throw its hat into the ring of tech giants looking to replace the cookie. Both it and Google are eyeing their own technologies to track people's digital behaviors -- the sites they visit, the apps they use, the videos they watch, etc. Such a cookie replacement would help them better target ads -- as well as give them immense power in the the digital-advertising space. How might the longtime rivals' odds stack up?

MICROSOFT
xbox device

Proposal:

Microsoft's cookie replacement would trace users across Microsoft-owned devices and services and target ads within those environments.

DEVICES/PROGRAMS:

Desktop computers, tablets and smartphones running Windows operating system; Microsoft's Xbox gaming console; Microsoft-run services including Internet Explorer and Bing.

STRENGTHS:

Microsoft could bring TV into the tracking-and-targeting mix through Xbox, which lets users watch videos on Hulu, YouTube and even live TV through cable providers Comcast Xfinity and Verizon FiOS.

WEAKNESSES:

Too few mobile users could hamper the tracker's ability to span desktop, tablets and smartphones. Research firm IDC projects Microsoft's smartphone operating system's market share at 3.9% globally compared with 75.3% for Google's Android and 16.9% for Apple's iOS.

CRITICS SAY:

Limiting the tracker to Microsoft's devices and services would constrict some interest, though the inclusion of Xbox could be a game-changer.

GOOGLE
google nexus

Proposal:

Details on Google's plans are scarce, but it would likely retain the current cookie's functionality and apply it to both the desktop and mobile web as well as mobile apps to track a single anonymized user across the various devices.

DEVICES/PROGRAMS:

Chrome desktop and mobile browser, Chrome desktop operating system, tablets and smartphones running Google's Android mobile operating system, Google's network of third-party sites and apps.

STRENGTHS:

Google already sees into the behaviors of billions of internet users through its own properties, including search, YouTube and Gmail, and network of third-party sites. Extending that across desktop and mobile and connecting the currently divided channels would give advertisers the most comprehensive window yet into consumers' digital habits.

WEAKNESSES:

Google's online-advertising dominance already makes people wary. Owning digital advertising's central-targeting technology and the data it reaps could re-raise regulatory concerns.

CRITICS SAY:

Google's position atop the digital-advertising food chain all but guarantees its cookie replacement will gain traction—assuming the advertising community and regulators are willing to cede the company even more power.

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