Nov 8 2023
Ben Larrison

The Cookieless World: New Identity Solutions


Have you heard the news? The future is cookieless, and it’s coming up fast—in the second half of 2024, to be precise!

To prepare for a world without third-party cookies, it’s important that members of the advertising industry understand what’s changing and embrace new ideas and collaboration. The success of any identity solution is heavily dependent on scale, and so partnering with an independent owner of a solution with the most scale—or, better yet, partnering with multiple—is likely to be the best option when the dust settles. Working as a group, evaluating options, and sharing principles is the best course we can take to minimize the impact on customers.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the current and future state of third-party cookie deprecation and how groups are working toward innovative identity solutions.

Wait… are third-party cookies really going away?

Yes, third-party cookies are on their way out. That said, it's not an all-at-once farewell: Firefox and Safari have already eliminated cookies, while Google, over the past few years, has announced, then delayed, then again delayed Chrome’s third-party cookie deprecation. Despite these postponements, the day will eventually come when third-party cookies are no longer supported in Chrome. However, the transition will be an incremental one, starting in Q1 2024 with about 1% of Chrome users, and progressing gradually from there.

But why are third-party cookies going away?

The demise of third-party cookies stems from concerns over consumer privacy and data protection. 86% of people in the US say data privacy is a growing concern for them, and with consumers demanding more control over their online footprint, legislators have stepped in, enacting privacy regulations such as GDPR, CCPA, and CPRA. At the same time, tech giants and browsers are taking proactive steps to rebuild trust by putting an end to the cross-site tracking that third-party cookies enabled.

What is cookieless tracking all about?

Cookieless tracking monitors user activity on websites without relying on browser cookies. These tracking tools allow marketers to measure cookieless click-through conversions, granting them the ability to track performance, report on campaigns, and maximize ROAS without compromising consumer privacy.

What's replacing cookies? Nothing “crumby,” right?

Unfortunately, there’s no “silver bullet” replacement for third-party cookies (yet). Savvy marketers are leaning into a mix of privacy-friendly solutions to minimize the impact of third-party cookie loss on their campaigns, including (but not limited to) cookieless tracking, first-party data, contextual targeting, anonymized data sources, premium inventory, and audience profiling.

New identity solutions have also emerged, offering ways to glean insights from and target messaging to audiences while adhering to privacy-first principles. What do these burgeoning identity solutions look like? Let’s dig in:

IAB Project Rearc

In February 2020, the International Advertising Bureau (IAB) introduced Project Rearc, a global initiative designed to get stakeholders across the digital advertising and media supply chain together to re-architect digital marketing in a consolidated effort to harmonize personalization and consumer privacy. And in June 2022, as part of this initiative, IAB Tech Lab released its Global Privacy Platform, a mechanism for transmitting consumer choice signals from websites and mobile apps to advertising technology companies.

Along with other industry leaders, Basis has been an active participant in Project Rearc—reviewing the proposals, evaluating specs, and providing feedback. It proposes rigorous technical standards and guidelines that inform how companies collect and use such an identifier so that:

  • Consumers are in control of the use of the ID and any related data. Any privacy preferences attached to the identifier are strictly followed.
  • The identifier is sufficiently encrypted so that it cannot be reverse engineered to identify the person.
  • Brands and publishers have auditable, technical assurances that third-party vendors cannot track consumers on this basis without explicit consent.
  • Third-party vendors are able to execute on behalf of trusted first parties, without compromising any of the above objectives.
  • Advertisers utilize standardized consumer-facing messaging, and accountability mechanisms that ascertain responsible privacy practices.

LiveRamp RampID

LiveRamp introduced IdentityLink in 2016. The technology, now known as RampID, allows resolving hundreds of different identifiers for consumers used on devices and marketing platforms in a privacy-compliant manner. It doesn’t matter if data is offline or online, first-party CRM or third-party behavioral, online exposure data or mobile app download data—all of it can be tied back to a unique, privacy-safe identifier at the consumer level.

A bright future

The digital media ecosystem is a dynamic one, with new methodologies, tools, and opportunities emerging every day. The third-party cookie has been a protagonist for the last 20 years, but it’s not the only character in this story. And with the third-party cookie going the way of MySpace, we are at the dawn of a new era for adtech—one filled with opportunity and room for innovation in the way we connect with our audiences.

Advertisers who focus on making the most of their first-party data and cookieless media alternatives, optimizing campaigns based on real-time learnings, and embracing identity solutions that are high-performing and privacy compliant, are sure to be well-positioned for the cookieless future.

As we go through these changes together, it’s important that industry players stay committed to working together, listening to the market, collaborating with regulatory bodies, adapting and developing new products, and keeping customers/users abreast of changes as they develop. If we can do that, we’ll all emerge from a place of strength and primed for success in our new, cookieless world.

Want to learn more about how to embrace the cookieless future? Check out Beyond Third-Party Cookies: Your Guide to Overcoming the Identity Crisis.

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