Google’s long-standing plan to disable third-party cookies in Chrome is almost finished with its first stage. Google said it will progressively start enabling the Privacy Sandbox tools for Chrome developers planning to replace third-party tracking cookies with privacy-preserving API alternatives after Chrome’s press release on July 18th.
Although there are still numerous phases to be taken before Google completes its Privacy Sandbox rollout, shipping these APIs is a significant step toward the company’s ultimate goal of completely phasing out third-party cookies. For now, Google is putting efforts into enabling an opt-in testing mode that will allow advertisers to experiment with the Sandbox tools without cookies towards the latter part of 2023 and to turn off third-party cookies for 1% of Chrome users sometime in Q1 2024.
The Chrome Developers blog for Chrome 115 has detailed information on the new “relevance and measurement” APIs. These include the Attribution Reporting API, which tracks when ad clicks or views result in conversions, the Topics API, which classifies a user’s interests based on their web usage without disclosing the information to advertisers, and the Protected Audience API (previously known as FLEDGE), which enables relevant ads to be channeled to users based on their prior interactions with the advertiser.
To enable Google to monitor any possible concerns, the APIs will first be enabled for a small number of Chrome developer browser instances. As the rollout advances, this number will gradually expand. Similar to this, just a small subset of the new APIs will be activated for some groups of Chrome developers throughout this rollout, making it simpler to identify and isolate problems with particular APIs.
Google claims that this process of implementation will probably commence next week, effective July 24, and that it plans to enable the APIs for about 35% of browsers for the time being. The company plans to increase this to 60% by the beginning of August, with the objective of activating APIs for 95% of Chrome 115 browsers around the time that Chrome 116 is anticipated to be freely accessible in mid-August. The majority of the earlier limited access testing groups should currently be using all of the relevance and measurement APIs, according to Google, which plans to keep “only small, isolated groups” without using all of the APIs.
Third-party cookies were supposed to be phased out by Google in late 2023, however, the initiative has been postponed due to a number of onboarding concerns and regulatory concerns. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) of the UK released its guidelines for third parties testing Google’s Privacy Sandbox tools in June after earlier expressing worries that the new strategy would unfairly benefit the search giant’s own advertising business. The CMA approved Google’s proposals back in 2022, and the company said it “will continue working closely with the CMA” before taking any further action to completely ban third-party cookies (provided that Google adheres to the list of pledges it made to obtain approval).