Google is delaying its plan to kill third-party cookies in Chrome until 2023
Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Alex Wong/Getty Images
Google had originally intended to phase out third-party cookies and replace them with new technologies from its "Privac...

Google is delaying its plan to kill third-party cookies in Chrome until 2023

Google had originally intended to phase out third-party cookies and replace them with new technologies from its "Privac...
  • Google said Thursday it's pushing back its plan to kill off third-party tracking cookies in Chrome.
  • It now expects to phase out cookies and replace them with tech from its Privacy Sandbox by 2023.
  • The delay comes after Google pledged to give oversight of the cookie changes to the UK's antitrust watchdog.

Google said Thursday it intends to delay by more than a year its plan to kill off third-party cookies within its Chrome browser, a move likely to be well-received by the online ad industry, which has been scrambling to shift to alternative technologies.

Writing in a blog post, Google Privacy Engineering Director Vinay Goel set out a new timeline for Chrome's cookie phase out and deployment of alternative technologies as part of its "Privacy Sandbox" initiative, which it now expects to complete by late 2023.

"While there's considerable progress with this initiative, it's become clear that more time is needed across the ecosystem to get this right," the blog post said.

Google has now set out an extended timeline for the changes. Stage one is expected to start in late 2022, during which time publishers, advertisers, and adtech vendors can migrate their services to work with new cookieless technologies. The next stage is the cookie phase out, expected to start in mid 2023 and finish later that year.

Google first announced its intentions to kill off the tracking cookies, which advertisers use to track users around the web and target them with ads, in January last year. The company said the plan, which originally had a "two-year" deadline, was to replace third-party cookies with more privacy conscious technologies.

Since then, Google and other online ad industry players have been experimenting with new APIs, or application programming interfaces, designed to prevent the tracking of individual users while still allowing advertisers to target clusters of people by their interests and measure the effectiveness of their campaigns.

Google said Thursday that the Chrome team and other companies have suggested more than 30 proposals for new privacy-focused ad technologies in areas including ad measurement, targeting, and fraud detection. Of those proposals, four are in the "origin trial" stage, Google said, allowing other developers to experiment with the new features.

Chrome's cookie plans and Privacy Sandbox experiments have sparked frenzied debates in the online ad industry and among the privacy community, with some experts speculating the moves could serve to cement Google's advertising dominance. Chrome is by far the most-popular global web browser, cornering two-thirds of the market, while Google also continues to maintain its lead in the online ad space. EMarketer estimates Google will take a 28.6% share of worldwide digital ad spending this year.

Google's moves have also caught the eyes of global regulators. Earlier this month, Google said it would give the UK's Competition and Markets Authority oversight of its plans to roll out technologies from the Privacy Sandbox, including offering the watchdog a 60-day "standstill period" before it introduces any changes.

Google also pledged to limit how it will use and combine individual user data for digital ad purposes and said it will not discriminate against rivals in favor of its own ad products when implementing cookie alternatives. The commitments were offered in response to an investigation the CMA launched into the Privacy Sandbox in January.

Earlier this week, the European Union opened an antitrust probe into Google's advertising practices, including the company's plans to phase out cookies in Chrome.

Simon Andrews, founder of mobile marketing consultancy Addictive, said while a large portion of online ad businesses mistrusts Google, the industry needs to reach a consensus around building new privacy-focused solutions that are usable for all the players across the sector.

"Like it or not, we need Google to come up with something that the industry can get behind because if they don't, nobody else will, and there will be a Balkanization of everything," he said.