Does the Delay of the 3rd Party Cookie Withdrawal Deadline Mean More Time for the Industry? What to Expect Before the Deadline?

It’s been a year and a half since Google’s January 2020 announcement, setting up the ambitious goal to have brand new privacy-preserving advertising technologies deployed in 2022 for the developer community to start adopting them in place of third-party cookies. 

We now know that third-party cookies will be staying with us a little longer. On June 24, Google released an updated timeline for the Privacy Sandbox, a high-level plan indicating that it will phase out support for third-party cookies over a three month period starting mid-2023. 

While many have reacted to the delay as a surprise, this was to be expected for quite some time. In August 2020, Jerry Dischler from Google said that the deadline won’t proceed if there aren’t solutions that work for everyone while also protecting user privacy. And after the recent UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) report – indicating that the regulator will be more directly involved in the development of the Privacy Sandbox – it was clear that 2022 would be unreachable.

However, in our view, the new more-realistic timeline should provide wider engagement on the testing stage of FLoC and FLEDGE. This will provide even better quality for the end solution implemented inside the browser – one that is 100% market-ready. 

As one of the key contributors to the Privacy Sandbox and fully independent from the company-owned browser, RTB House considers this a good thing. We believe market participants should spend this extra time on education about the next generation advertising systems and how to fuel them with advertiser’s or publisher’s 1st party data to maintain relevant and efficient advertising. 

The question is – how much more time does the industry actually have? The answer is – not much. Based on the official procedures for bringing new features to Chrome, we at RTB House expect that the next two years will be filled with work:

  • H2 2021 – prototype of the solution to be built within the browser
  • H1 2022 – community review of the results from prototype testing and preparations for Origin Trials
  • H2 2022 – community review of the Origin Trials results
  • H1 2023 – publication of “Intent to Ship” to move to full FLEDGE adaptation
  • H2 2023 – gradual phase out of 3rd party cookies, reaching 100% 3rd party cookie-free Chrome late-2023

The expected timeline means advertising vendors should have prototypes of their solutions built this year to be ready for Origin Trials in 2022. It’s definitely not an extension of 2 years, as some of the press releases have suggested. 

Unfortunately, despite the publication of a high-level timeline, we are still missing a detailed timeline from Google for the testing and implementation of particular proposals from the Privacy Sandbox, as was indicated in the company’s commitments presented to the CMA. 

However, based on the current dynamics and publicly available conversations within Privacy Sandbox-related groups, we expect that in the near future Google Chrome will be presenting a new, more privacy-preserving iteration of FLoC. This new version is expected to address both private and public feedback that Google received from multiple sources, such as an extensive Privacy analysis of FLoC from Mozilla. We are looking forward to Google presenting this new version, so that we can evaluate it from our own perspective.

The clarity and transparency in the development of the Privacy Sandbox is especially important for advertising vendors to understand its role in their future-oriented solutions. 

There will be no silver bullet for the cookieless future, but the optimal balance between methods is yet to be determined. The leading advertising vendors will provide complementary solutions combining individual, group-based and contextual targeting methods that will navigate marketers towards new marketing strategies. 

If you have any questions or comments regarding the article, please let us know.