And So It Begins, Google Starts Phasing Out Cookies In Chrome

Closeup of Google's Chrome logo with a stack of chocolate chip cookies in the center.
For millions of Chrome browser users, third-party tracking cookies are no longer part of the deal while surfing the internet. That's because Google has finally begun implementing its plan to phase out third-party cookies, albeit initially for a small fraction of Chrome users—just 1%. While that may seem like a minuscule figure, it equates to more than 32 million users, based on Chrome's dominant market share.

How that math works out is that it is estimated there are over 3.2 billion Chrome users around the world, or at least Chrome installs. So if Google holds true to rolling out its "Tracking Protection" feature to "1% of Chrome users globally," it translates to a rather large test. And assuming things go well, Google will gradually increase the roll out until its phased out third-party cookies for every Chrome user in the second half of 2024.

"Third-party cookies have been a fundamental part of the web for nearly three decades. While they can be used to track your website activities, sites have also used them to support a range of online experiences—like helping you log in or showing you relevant ads," Google stated in a blog post last month.

"With the Privacy Sandbox, we’re taking a responsible approach to phasing out third-party cookies in Chrome. We’ve built new tools for sites that support key use cases, and provided time for developers to make the transition. And as we introduce Tracking Protection, we’re starting with a small percentage of Chrome users so developers can test their readiness for a web without third-party cookies," Google added.

This has actually been the plan for several years now—Google first announced its intention at the start of 2020 as part of its Privacy Sandbox initiative. However, Google delayed putting its plan into action on at least two separate occasions, partially due to regulatory concerns. But, the time has finally come.

According to Google, it's replacement for third-party cookies is a better alternative. While still a work in progress, Google's Privacy Sandbox APIs key in on topics that Chrome users appear interested in, but the data is local.

"The Privacy Sandbox APIs require web browsers to take on a new role. Rather than working with limited tools and protections, the APIs allow a user's browser to act on the user's behalf—locally, on their device—to protect the user's identifying information as they navigate the web. This is a shift in direction for browsers," Google explains in its Privacy Sandbox documentation.

Users then get clumped into groups based on their browsing habits, which in turn still enables advertisers to deliver relevant ads that users are more like to be interested in.

Chrome notification related to Tracking Protection, on a laptop and mobile phone.

Google says millions of people who are part of the initial roll out, which began two days ago, have been selected randomly. You'll know if you're among the early adopters by way of a notification when you fire up Chrome, whether it's on a desktop PC or an Android device.

What happens if things don't work correctly? If for some reason a site is having issues without third-party cookies, Chrome will give users a prompt to temporarily re-enable them