First Party vs Third Party Cookies

By crystalmarketing | September 6th, 2021

Cookies help websites store data about users. First-party cookies are created by the website operator, while third-party cookies are created by website partners like advertisers or social media plugins. As users demand more privacy online, third-party cookies are losing favor.

What is a cookie?

A computer cookie is a piece of data that is created by a web server and stored by the web browser on a user’s computer. The first time you go to a website, a cookie will be created. Every time you return to the site, it will check the cookie.

Cookies can tell websites useful information, like what browser you use, your language preferences, or your location. Because the cookie is stored on your computer, the website can remember these details and preferences the next time you visit. Cookies only store the information you give to a website yourself.

What is a first-party cookie?

A first-party cookie is a cookie created by the company that operates the website you are visiting. First-party cookies exist to make your experience using a website easier. Here are some tasks a first-party cookie can help with:

  • Storing your username so you can login with your password only
  • Configuring a website to work with your specific browser
  • Remembering your language preference for a multilingual site
  • Allowing you to add multiple items to your cart without having to login each time

What is a third-party cookie?

Any cookies created by companies that don’t operate the website you are visiting are third-party cookies. Imagine you are visiting a news website and there is a Google ad embedded in the sidebar. If Google were to create a cookie even though you were visiting the news site and not Google, that would be a third-party cookie.

Third-party cookies became popular with advertisers because they allowed advertising companies to display personalized ads to users. If a user goes to many websites that a company advertises on, the advertiser can get a detailed picture of that user’s web activity. Because of this, third-party cookies are also known as tracking cookies.

Say you shop for a new backpack on one web store, and the next day you are getting ads for backpack styles everywhere you go online. If you’ve ever had an experience like this, you’ve likely experienced third-party cookies. A third-party advertiser who worked with the web store saved a cookie to let them know that you are looking for backpacks.

Why has there been a transition away from third-party cookies?

The increase in privacy regulations has led the shift away from third-party cookies. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, sets many new standards for being transparent with users about which data is collected online and which parties are collecting that data.

Users have been expressing their frustration with data privacy online. Many people find personalized advertising intrusive. Google has come under fire for its invasive advertising and the company announced a plan to phase out third-party ads by 2023. We can expect this trend to continue as companies face regulatory and consumer pressure.

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