Tracking the Future: Life Beyond the Death of the Cookie

authorNexa dateJune 13, 2024

The death of the cookie, a fundamental pillar of the digital marketing industry, has been delayed – for the second time. However, intelligent marketers won’t put off their future by relying solely on a doomed technology. Instead they are actively investigating and deploying new ways to track their marketing that will define the future of the industry. In this blog, we examine the history of cookies, the reasons behind their elimination, and the new methods that marketers are actively deploying to future-proof their strategies.

A Brief History of Cookies: When User Behavior Changed Digital Marketing

Cookies are small files stored locally on users’ devices. They let websites remember small bits of information like preferences and are used to track user behavior. Enter the mid-90s, a time when Pulp Fiction appeared in cinemas, Nirvana blared over the radio, and cookies became the new important parts of the online advertising model. In the decades since, they have enabled marketers to collect information about users on websites that they can use to deliver targeted marketing and a customized user experience.

The Death of Third-Party Cookies

In 2020, Google revealed its intention to eliminate third-party cookie support in its Chrome browser by 2022, citing increased industry and regulatory concerns about privacy. Digital marketers saw the writing on the wall: user behavior was going to need to be tracked in new ways if advertising had any hope of reaching audiences online. In a twist, Google delayed the deadline to 2024, but the writing was on the wall: the industry needed time to prepare itself for this seismic shift.

What’s Pushing The Move Away From Cookies?

Marketers’ distancing from third-party cookies can be explained by several factors. The most important of these would have to be privacy with greater awareness from the public placed on the issue and authorities making major online companies more accountable. Users are smarter than they often get credit; worries over online privacy have seen major outcries in the past decade, with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerburg’s appearance before the US Senate in 2018 over Facebook’s handling of user data marking a landmark shift in global awareness of data privacy.

Similarly, regulation has seen a wave of privacy laws around the world, including Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the US having a profound effect on the privacy policies of just about every company where you’ve entered personal information or been targeted with ads. Legislation of this kind seeks to protect the privacy of users and grant them more control over their data.

And then, of course, there’s technology itself. The constant evolution of hardware and software has made tracking cookies relics. New alternatives are here for marketers to better understand and appeal to users.

The New Path: Tracking Without Cookies

Marketers and their clients have new ways to track user behavior using more specific means. Let’s take a look at the leading methods.

First-Party-Data: The crude oil of the digital marketing world, first-party data is collected directly by marketers from users who visit websites, use apps or other digital properties. Since users share their information with who they consider trusted partners, it makes this data especially valuable. Marketers can then place a premium on this information to create tailored experiences that will preserve user trust.

Contextual Advertising: Cookies are used to track users to deliver ads based on their browsing history. However, there are privacy-compliant ways to reach users without tracking them. Contextual advertising targets users based on the page content instead of browsing history. Marketers analyze the text, images and links on a webpage to categorize it and then deliver ads from the same categories.

User ID Tracking: User IDs are a proven and widely accepted way to track users across multiple websites while preserving privacy. Marketers can create universal user IDs that combine anonymized user information from different datasets to recognize a user as they move across the digital landscape and present a unified view of behavior without third-party cookies.

Server-Side Tracking: Server-side tracking is an alternative cookie technology that collects data server-side instead of on the client (the user’s browser). This method gives marketers more control over the data and can avoid some of the privacy issues and technical problems that plague cookies.

Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC): Google unveiled its Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) as a way to target users without using third-party cookies. Under this system, users are grouped into cohorts based on shared browsing behavior, allowing advertisers to show relevant ads without identifying or tracking individual users. FLoC is still under development but is a strong contender to replace cookies.

Marketer Concerns

Marketers face several challenges when moving to these new tracking technologies.

Implementation: For most marketers, moving to these new technologies will require significant modifications to IT infrastructure and marketing processes that have been optimized for cookie-based strategies. Marketers need to prepare for the added cost of implementing new technologies and training staff.

User Trust: As marketers move to new methods of tracking and advertising, they must preserve consumer trust and even build on it. Users must be made fully aware of the data collection methods and given options to opt-in. Marketers should implement strong privacy policies and clearly communicate how they are changing the way they use tracking technologies.

Strategies for the Road Ahead: The most successful marketers will begin preparing now for the changes by investing in strong first-party data strategies, developing opportunities for contextual advertising, and keeping abreast of new technologies like FLoC that may soon replace cookies. Marketers who partner with industry leaders and remain flexible will be best positioned to adapt and thrive in the changing landscape.

The Cookieless Future

What does the future of digital marketing look like after the death of the cookie? Many digital experts predict the industry will continue to innovate and develop new ways to track and target users in place of third-party cookies. New technologies like advanced encryption, AI-based audience insights and transparent user consent frameworks hold promising possibilities for marketers.


The death of the cookie has been delayed – for the second time. However, the digital marketing industry is already transforming, and marketers must actively investigate and deploy alternative tracking strategies to futureproof their tactics. By focusing on first-party data, contextual advertising, and new technologies like FLoC, marketers can maintain personalized and privacy-compliant experiences for their audiences. The cookieless future is coming sooner than you think. Stay educated and agile to thrive.