Cookies Will Be the Next Victim of the Mobile Revolution

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No, we are not talking about Girls Scout Cookies. We are talking about the data stored on your machine by websites when you surf using a web browser like Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer. As you browse, each website stores pieces of information, in order to provide you with functionality such as remaining logged in to the site or showing you the content you may be most interested in from a news site.

While cookies have been used for almost 20 years (20 years as of next June!), they are still controversial, because they provide advertisers a way to track your browsing behavior. Advertisers have spent a tremendous amount of resources to create complex, interconnected networks to track and share these third-party cookies. This allows them to run highly effective ad campaigns and participate in the thriving advertising industry, valued at more than $100 billion annually.

So why, much to the consternation of advertisers, are cookies a hot topic with Google, Microsoft and Apple?

Due to the astronomical rise in mobile device usage since 2007 and the fact that mobile apps don’t use these cookies to track user browser behavior. Cookies still work with mobile browsers, but Apple disables third-party cookies in mobile Safari, the browser that runs on iPhones and iPads. Apple uses IDFA (ID For Advertisers) to replace third-party cookies. Now that Apple has taken over the tracking system on their platform, Google and Microsoft also want their own tracking systems, giving each of them control over their considerable ecosystems. Obviously, advertisers not working directly with these tech giants have everything to lose, and they are not happy about it.

Only time will tell if the new identifier systems will completely replace cookies, but the big picture question is – are you taking mobile research seriously? There’s much to keep up with, as the cookie crumbles.

Chandika Bhandari is the CEO of Seattle AppLab, which provides technology and mobile-strategy consulting.



  1. Greg Bender says:

    The underlying question is what consumer data is available with no identifiers like IDFA and who owns it. Apple, App Developer?

  2. Siim Teller says:

    Measuring brand advertising effectiveness on mobile is already moved past the dead cookie. My company On Device Research is working with a good handful of ad tech providers and media buyers to combine our large mobile panel with knowledge of who’s seen which ad to take the usual exposed-control research to mobile.

    A recent case study here:

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