September 11, 2013 ↘︎

Crunchtime: The growing importance of 1st party cookies.

Since the web became an important part of just about every consumer’s life, user privacy has become a fundamental concern for browser manufacturers. Recent events have heightened the concerns of many web users over exactly who is tracking them, and what is being done with the information. As a result, support for 3rd party cookies is rapidly diminishing.

Apple has, for a few years, had a fairly comprehensive 3rd party cookie blocking policy in place for Safari. This has meant that many tracking tools had to factor in a 3-8% variation in the data they have been receiving. Inconvenient, but not a huge concern. Remember, behaviour analysis is about trends, not actual figures. We aren’t accountants.

However, with Mozilla’s recent announcement that they will be following suit, the importance of using something other than 3rd party cookies is much more pressing. Depending on your source, Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox hold somewhere between 25 – 30% of the world’s browser market share. That’s a much bigger concern. It is worth noting here that neither Google nor Microsoft, who both own advertising networks, are following this path.

What makes it a bigger concern is the shifting attitude of the general public to being tracked. Where once the subject was treated with general apathy it has now become headline news, as governments are being seen to utilise data analysis tools for enforcement of state security. A desire for greater control over data may lead to an increase in market share for browsers that offer this kind of functionality.

What are browsers actually doing?

Though the cookie policies vary slightly between Safari and Firefox, in general they are blocking the abilities of 3rd party scripting to read and write cookies, with a couple of caveats. Primarily, if the user has visited the site of the 3rd party it will be allowed to write cookies to any subsequent site.

It’s unlikely that any of your visitors will have visited the domain used by Site Catalyst for writing 3rd party cookies, so your reported data will become less and less in line with reality.

What should I be doing?

In order to avoid this new rule you should migrate, as soon as possible, to a 1st party cookie. It’s free, and encouraged by Adobe.

To do this you’ll need to fill out an FPC Request Form. Submit it to Adobe, and then have your IT department make the relevant changes to your DNS records.

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