The original sin of digital publishing may be the embrace of ad-driven revenue models. This in turn led to the user perception that Internet content is “free.” The cookie’s virtual invisibility kept many consumers blissfully unaware of the true value exchange with Internet content.
Rumors of the third-party cookie’s death have been greatly exaggerated for years, but recent regulatory developments and browser privacy efforts have upset the dominance of this digital identifier. GDPR, CCPA, and browser privacy initiatives are only the beginning of a wider movement around data privacy, but they paint a clear picture of the next generation of consumer expectations.
Much of the contemporary Internet—and certainly digital advertising—has been built upon tools for data transference. While the cookie has been key in the development of digital advertising and programmatic transactions in particular, the architecture is not going to collapse without it. Understanding why the third-party cookie has gone out of favor—or really, outlived its usefulness—illuminates what will replace it.