By most estimates, Google Chrome is the world’s most popular web browser with market share above 60%.

That means when Chrome changes, the effects can be significant and at recent the Google I/O conference, the Chromium team announced upcoming changes to Chrome that will likely impact marketers.

The first change addresses cookie privacy and will soon require website owners to explicitly specify when cookies should work across websites. In a blog post, Ben Galbraith, director of Chrome product management, and Justin Schuh, director of Chrome engineering, explained:

“This change will enable users to clear all [cross-site] cookies while leaving single domain cookies unaffected, preserving user logins and settings. It will also enable browsers to provide clear information about which sites are setting these cookies, so users can make informed choices about how their data is used.”

The second change addresses fingerprinting. As browser makers have added greater privacy protection for users, some players in the digital ad ecosystem have responded by creating clever ways to circumvent browser makers’ measures so that they can continue to track users across the web.

Understanding that its cookie changes would create even greater incentives for fingerprinting, the Chromium team says it will be “reducing the ways in which browsers can be passively fingerprinted, so that we can detect and intervene against active fingerprinting efforts as they happen.”

How Chrome’s updates will affect marketers

Chrome’s upcoming cross-site cookie clampdown and fight against fingerprinting will likely be felt by marketers to varying degrees. In some cases, the effects could be significant.

The ability to identify unique individuals as they move around the web, either through cross-site cookies or fingerprinting, is a fundamental component of many digital marketing campaigns. For example, many marketers rely on retargeting solutions to deliver marketing messages to users they’ve
interacted with previously.

If the pool of individuals marketers have the ability to target in this fashion shrinks, or the length of time they are able to track individuals across the web is reduced, many marketers might feel that they are in effect taking a big step back in time as far as their targeting capabilities are concerned.

In addition to the effects Chrome’s updates could have on marketing campaigns themselves, companies could find that they also hamper their attribution efforts as cross-site cookies and fingerprinting are commonly employed by analytics solutions.

A reduced ability to answer attribution questions could make it harder for marketers to make smart budget allocation decisions, especially at a time when customer journeys are becoming more complex.

But wait…there’s a catch

While marketers shouldn’t underestimate the impacts the pending Chrome changes could have, it’s important to remember that the changes are ultimately being pushed by Google, the 800-pound gorilla of digital advertising.

Google certainly isn’t going to upend the digital ad market. Instead, it would appear that it’s simply trying to maintain and expand its role in it.

As The Wall Street Journal’s Patience Haggin and Rob Copeland observed, the changes will largely spare Google, which has some 3bn users and handles some 90% of all internet searches, at the expense of its rivals.

In other words, the Chrome changes could potentially make Google even more important to marketers and those negatively affected by the Chrome changes might find themselves tempted to send even more of their dollars to Google as its data edge grows.

Learn more

Getting to Grips with Digital Advertising – Best Practice Guide