Google’s not-so-shocking move to postpone killing cookies in Chrome has divided the ad industry, yet again, with advocates of a post-cookie web saying, “let the cookie go already.” Other stakeholders in the complex ad tech landscape are giving Google a pass, asserting that the industry is not ready for such drastic changes without longer preparation, and especially during an economic downturn.
On Wednesday, Google changed its post-cookie timeline, marking the second time the company pushed back the date to shutter third-party cookies in Chrome. Google now says third-party cookies will go away in the second half of 2024. Last year, Google had set the termination date in late 2023, and before that Google signaled it would be ready to ditch cookies by 2022.
Google’s plan to replace cookies is clearly facing more difficulties than the company initially expected, and this new delay is just the latest sign that its privacy-enhanced roadmap is a bit of a mess, according to ad tech industry insiders. “This is about Google finding a way to balance how they maximize revenue while minimizing privacy implications,” said Mark Pearlstein, chief revenue officer of Permutive, a next-generation publisher and advertising platform. “The challenge is they are four years into this initiative, so it’s logical to wonder how high a priority this really is for them.”
Google has to walk a fine line because it is such a dominant player in browsers and ad tech, raising complicated competitive questions any time it makes a change. Apple, for instance, implemented Intelligent Tracking Prevention in 2020, basically banishing cookies from its popular Safari browser on iPhones and Macs. Google, however, has had to consult with regulators like U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority, to make sure it doesn’t make any changes to Chrome and the ad tech ecosystem that would unfairly benefit Google’s own ad fortunes while harming independent publishers and ad tech vendors.