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The difference between 1st-party and 3rd-party cookies

We used to simplify things, and that's perfectly ok. Thanks to some simplifications of reality, we can even comprehend lots of complicated and more abstract concepts. As I said, that is fine… unless simplifying leads to misconception. That's what happened with third and first-party cookies...

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It's the final drill since the cookies will "vanish" soon at the beginning of 2022. I used the quotation mark, as it's not entirely true, and therefore, understanding their exact work mode is critical.

Why Cookies, at all?

Cookies appeared in the late 90', and their primary purpose was… to be honest, god knows what it was really.

Officially the purpose of the existence of the cookies is to keep information about the browser session. This is why you don't have to worry about logging in repeatedly you click something on any link on Facebook. In the broader sense, the website isn't cleared out when you leave it.

In example. You leave a pen on the desk, and if you want to use it once again, the next day, you don't have to buy the new one - you can simply pick the one you left yesterday. Thanks to cookies, websites work the same way.

What they are?

Cookies are small files - pieces of text data. Server, upon visiting the website, places a cookie "in" your browser. Cookies are read upon visiting the following sites. If a cookie already exists, it can be updated (cookies just as the eatable equivalents usually have an expiration date) or skipped. All cookies are read: only adequate ones are used.

It is pretty convenient and straightforward, but at the same time, cookies' simplicity is the cause of their flaws. Let's underline that cookie tracks the device and nothing else.

There are two "categories" of cookies.

  • Cookies that are helping identify the site you as you - these are cookies that I already introduced above
  • The ones that track you across the web - so-called 3rd-party cookies. Let's bow on these ones.

Remember - cookie tracks device. It could cause problems in the late nineties when we used computers as the gateways to the "worldwide web". One computer per family, in the example.

Nowadays, things are different, not necessarily better, however. Practically every one of us has at least 2 computers, causing cookies "modern problems". If your device is genuinely personal, besides tracking only the device, it identifies you at some point.

However, still - funny situations still occur. In the example, proposals are revealed prematurely because of tracking cookies displaying the advertisements with proposal rings. I know 2 such cases ;)

Speaking of tracking.

Cookie Wars - Tech giants are fighting over cookies (and your data)
Even if you don’t know the details of what cookies are all about, you’re certainly already familiar with them. If you didn’t know that, go clear all the cookies in your browser right now and then go visit Amazon, Gmail or Facebook.

Let's make it clear. The cookies mechanism wasn't initially invented for advertisers - for advertisers to track us. It was just used by them to do so. Since cookies have seen the light of the day, the internet has become more and more familiar to all of us - with all its light and shadow. Along with that, the users became more aware of their own digital fragility and began to demand more privacy. Privacy endangered by cookies.

Scaring with cookies has become the new agenda of dozens of internet companies… Primarily those who do not rely on them and won't lose much when they suddenly vanish. Paradoxically, one of these companies is browsers, developers, although it would seem that they should care most about cookies as "web browsing equipment".

Cookies, or more specifically third party cookies, have become synonymous with attacks on privacy.

But what about those first-party? Does it really matter?

Cookies relations

Actually, no. Or at least not really. We're used to talking about cookies 1st-party and 3rd-party categories like we would call one cookie chocolate chip and another coconut. This is probably the biggest misconception when it comes to cookies.

There was never anything like third-party cookies understood as a cookie with a unique mark on it, saying, "this is 3rd party cookie". In practice, "third-party cookies" can still work in 2022, and first-party cookies will be blocked, despite the changes.

That's why it's better to call them data, first-party, third-party. 1st and 3rd party refers to the relation between a domain that reads a cookie, and a domain that saves the cookie, or more correctly, is written under it (within it).

What does it mean, then?

If you block 3rd party cookies (Like Apple proposes), the cookie stored data are read (and included within request) only in the first-party context. It means that you will remain logged on Facebook, your cart won't empty (additionally, some eCommerces store your cart in so-called "Local Storage"). Google will still display your ads on SERPs, but not on the random pages across the web, using an AdSense network.

In general - fewer ads are displayed on your browsing history.

So there is no hope? For eCommerce, in the example, benefiting from the ads - especially the paid remarketing networks like AdSense?

Well, you can use 0-party data.

0-Party

Putting in simple terms, 0-party data are data given willingly by users. That information is convenient - they are used by your domain, stored and processed according to all law regulations. Their secret power is that they are given by for their own sake, and they expect you to store and use them. What's more, it's in the users' best interest for those data to be correct and updated.

Want to learn more about 0-party data? Give the following article a try!

What is Zero-Party Data (and why you need it)
Data privacy regulations and tighter restrictions by web browsers are making it harder to track online activity – which can be good or bad depending on which side of the online ads industry you’re in. But there is a way to get insights about users without tracking them: Zero-Party Data.
Marketing theoryCookies

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