As an essential part of web browsing, HTTP cookies help web developers provide more personal and convenient website visits. They allow websites to remember you, your website, your login information, your shopping carts and more. The advertising industry utilizes their huge potential to personalize ads.
What are cookies?
Often referred to as HTML, HTTP, internet or browser cookies, are small pieces of text files used to identify individual users who browse the Internet. They are native to the websites you visit and are stored on the user’s computer through a web browser. Essentially, they allow each website to recognize the user as the same person who has previously visited the site.
In practice, when you visit a website, it throws a cookie on your computer. This keeps you logged in and tracks your activity (such as setting up filters while browsing the store or storing products in your cart). The next time you visit, the site knows you’re the same person again.
What are the different types of cookies?
Aside from the most popular distinction between the owner (discussed below), HTTP cookies can be split over the duration of the activity.
- Session cookie – not stored on the hard drive and is deleted as soon as the user has finished browsing the site
- Persistent cookies – most popular ones are the tracking cookies. Their features include remembering changes made to your site, including language, theme, favorites, preferred shipping addresses, payment methods, and more.
The biggest difference in browser cookies is who owns them. While there are no technical differences between cookies, their origin and use can be different based on who they belong to.
The first-party cookie is placed in our browser by the website we visit directly. It is created by the host domain and its main purpose is to handle a single browsing session. It remembers what users do, which parts of the site they visit, and the changes they make to the site (such as adding items to a shopping cart). In addition to providing a good web browsing experience, internal cookies collect analytical information that can only be accessed by the website owner.
First party cookies are not normally used in advertisements. They are the property of the owner of the website and can only be used by that owner. However, there are some exceptions. First-party data can be stored in data management systems. From here it can be shared with third parties.
Third-party cookies, as the name suggests, come from a different domain than the one we’re visiting, not from the site you visit directly. Their main purpose is to track user activity on the Internet. They are most often used for online advertising activities, and are an integral part of websites. The browser stores them on the user’s computer, which essentially allows third parties to collect an extensive profile of each individual user on their web server. And if a particular advertising company knows the location, reading habits, interests, and recent purchases of a single individual, you can target and refocus your ads across different sites and companies to show ads for products that really interest that individual.
And how does a third-party cookie get collected to your site? Many sites make money by “leasing space” to advertisers. Therefore, they simply allow others to place cookies in the form of advertisements on their website.
Are they good or bad?
The purpose of cookies is to remember what the user is doing and where to make it easier to browse the web. Thanks to them, we receive advertisements for the products we wanted to buy anyway, but with a special discount.
What cookies can do:
- Collect user information
- Monitor user behavior
- Remember products and ads a user clicked on
- Recognize location and device
What cookies do not know:
- They cannot obtain personal information from the computer
- They do not contain viruses
- They do not have access to passwords
- They cannot make adjustments to the settings
Why do third-party browser cookies disappear?
The web community has always been skeptical about web servers that collect information about users’ browsing habits. Cookies not only store the information we need to run websites, but also store information about our interests and interactions. This can include sensitive data and personally identifiable information.
Cookies created without the user’s consent can track individuals on the Internet. Despite GDPR laws and policies, pop-ups requesting consent are still designed to persuade users to accept cookies in their browser.
What is the future of cookies in advertising?
In the future, there will be no place for third-party cookies in advertising. After third-party cookie-based ad formats peaked in 2010, there was a growing trend toward more privacy-conscious solutions.
By now, all major browsers restrict or completely stop third-party tracking. Thus, the old targeting and re-targeting methods no longer work. However, there is more room for alternative advertising solutions, whether it’s internal data, contextual targeting, or an undiscovered technology. Google, Facebook and other technology giants most affected by the changes continue to look for alternative methods.
The ad technology industry is working hard to replace the method with a more effective one. Over the past few years, it has been clear that third-party browser cookies are no longer acceptable.
Innovative and cookie-free ad formats are starting to appear. Not only can they get customers to the site you want without any third-party tags or trackers, but they are more effective than traditional ad formats while maintaining brand security and user privacy.
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