Google delays third-party cookie demise yet again

Google is delaying the end of third-party cookies in its Chrome browser — again. In other unsurprising developments, water remains wet.

The announcement was made on Tuesday ahead of quarterly reports from Google and the ever-watchful U.K. Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), keeping tabs on how this whole situation unfolds.

“We recognize that there are ongoing challenges related to reconciling divergent feedback from the industry, regulators and developers, and will continue to engage closely with the entire ecosystem,” according to a statement Google posted on its website for the Privacy Sandbox. “It’s also critical that the CMA has sufficient time to review all evidence including results from industry tests, which the CMA has asked market participants to provide by the end of June. Given both of these significant considerations, we will not complete third-party cookie deprecation during the second half of Q4.”

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Google did not outline a more specific timetable beyond hoping for 2025. 

This is the third time Google has pushed back its original deadline set in January 2020. Back then, the tech behemoth promised to phase out third-party cookies “within two years” to beef up security for users while surfing the web. But since then, Google’s hit the brakes twice already. And every time, it’s been to give the ad industry more prep time for something that’s been surrounded by a lot of ifs, buts, and maybes. Even at the start of the year, as Google phased out cookies for one percent of browser traffic, questions loomed over when more significant changes would occur.

With this track record, Google’s latest delay won’t shock many. And even those caught off guard might get a pass. After all, Google had been preaching for months that third-party cookies would vanish from Chrome by the end of 2024.

Despite their assurances, hitting the deadline seemed increasingly unlikely. Especially after the CMA raised 39 “concerns” to be addressed before the plan could proceed back in January. And with the U.K. data watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), voicing its own reservations earlier this month, the plot thickened. Toss in the fact that Google’s own alternatives to third-party cookies (aforementioned Sandbox) left a lot to be desired, and another delay seemed inevitable.

“We welcome Google’s announcement clarifying the timing of third-party cookie deprecation. This will allow time to assess the results of industry tests and resolve remaining issues,” said a spokesperson from the CMA. “Under the commitments, Google has agreed to resolve our remaining competition concerns before going ahead with third-party cookie deprecation. Working closely with the ICO we expect to conclude this process by the end of 2024.”

For now, Google seems to have next year in mind as the latest end date for its plan to eliminate third-party cookies.

“We remain committed to engaging closely with the CMA and ICO and we hope to conclude that process this year,” Google’s statement read. “Assuming we can reach an agreement, we envision proceeding with third-party cookie deprecation starting early next year.”

Needless to say, the ad industry isn’t holding its breath.

That was certainly true of the 46 marketers who responded to the latest survey for Digiday+ Research, which asked them for their thoughts on the third-party cookie timeline. Of those who responded, 39% said they believe it would be at some point in Q2 2025 or beyond while 26% said they believed Google will get rid of third-party cookies in the Chrome browser before the end of the year.

“It’s unsurprising news given the magnitude of what is happening and the involvement of the CMA, but ultimately still frustrating,” said Wayne Blodwell, founder and CEO of Impact Media, an AI powered attention platform. “However, smart measurement is comfortably the largest way advertisers can create competitive advantage by leaning into durable/non cookie methods such as attention, MMM and econometrics and connecting that to media buying so it really shouldn’t slow down the sophisticated & progressive advertisers anyway.”

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