What is FLoC: How Will Google Replace Third Party Cookies

What Is Floc: How Will Google Replace Third Party Cookies

  • Feb 03, 2021
  • 1001 words
  • 4 minutes read
Photo by Julissa Capdevilla on Unsplash

Marvel has Avengers, DC has Justice League of America, and Google has Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC)?

Due to the ceaseless privacy concerns raised by internet users, web browser companies promised to stop the use of third-party cookies to store the information of users.

Google, being the biggest web browser company, recently made an announcement about their new plan to replace cookies as a response to the privacy-first worldwide advocacy. They finally opened up to the public the use of a new mechanism that will provide user-privacy yet will still deliver the same effectiveness just like cookies in terms of ad targeting.

Though it is not a secret that Google is working on a cookie replacement mechanism, they just recently backed up their idea about the new technology that will replace their cookie-based world in Chrome.

Google confidently published new information on the 25th of January 2021 that FLoC can deliver results as effective as cookie-based methods which according to them will be available in March for developer testing and for public testing in Google Ads next quarter this year.

However, the incoming plan of Google has quite created a conundrum among marketers and advertisers on its effectiveness, as well as, its viability in delivering targeted ads.

A lot of people, including publishers who rely on cookie-based ads to fund their content express their doubts as to the usefulness of the cookie replacement scheme.

Let us have an in-depth review of what FLoC really is and how it’s going to make changes in the field of digital marketing and advertising.

What is FLoC?

Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) is one of Google’s Privacy Sandbox proposals to replace third-party cookies within the Chrome browser. It is an API that groups people based on their browsing behaviours allowing advertisers to target them without using the soon-to-be-ditched third-party cookies.

The goal of FLoC is to eliminate web cookies by replacing them with feasible privacy-first alternatives that will help both advertisers and publishers all while protecting users’ data across the web.

With the introduction of FLoC, Google firmly believes that groups of people with common interests could replace individual identifiers. They believe that audience cohort data can replace the Chrome user data currently used for things like ad targeting.

Instead of identifying users individually through the use of cookies, cohorts technology will identify users according to their interests and will cluster them together as the basis of information distribution, particularly, relevant ad distribution.

What Can We Expect From FLoC?

It might be hard to imagine how web advertising can change and how it can be measured accurately without third-party cookies but Google assured that they can still deliver relevant ads to the right people through FLoC’s advanced technology while protecting people’s privacy.

Though FLoC is not an all-in-one package that can also do fraud prevention and measurement, Google firmly stands on its viability when it comes to data privacy.

With FLoC’s approach that only allows businesses to reach people through a large group based on their interests, Google is confident that it is the most effective way to hide a person’s identity as they are part of the crowd and very hard to determine individually.

Furthermore, FLoC’s technology uses on-device processing that will keep a person’s web history private on the browser.

As Google says, with the initial results of FLoC and the Privacy Sandbox, it is the best path to improve privacy for everyone across the web - users, publishers, marketers, and advertisers.

Will FLoCs Be Effective As Third-Party Cookies?

Advertising is the lifeblood of web-based businesses but the impending changes in Google Chrome which reportedly shares 65% of the web browsing activity is shaking the internet world.

Third-party cookies are going away and something new will be introduced to Chrome.

Google’s bold announcement on January 25th that the “Federated Learning of Cohorts” technology is 95% as effective as third-party cookies brought doubts and speculations from industry experts.

Advertising industry leaders are not buying it. They are left wondering how Google exactly reached its conclusion that FLoC-based cohorts can at least provide 95% of the conversions per dollar spent when compared to cookie-based advertising when there is no accurate data presented.

Although Google shared information in October 2020 about its process for assessing clustering algorithms, there is just not enough data to support the efficacy of FLoCs compared with third-party cookies.

Some skeptics do not believe that FLoC can replace third-party cookies when it comes to ad targeting. They don’t view FLoC as a replacement for third-party cookies but instead view it as an interesting targeting option Google is offering.

Some are reluctant to believe FLoC’s effectiveness as they see cookies as fulfilling a whole range of different kinds of functions while FLoC is very specific. Cookies enable retargeting but FLoCs somehow can’t.

There are even theories that FLoC is just a window dressing to prove to lawmakers that Google is willing to abide and hear the pleas of web users for data privacy.

Despite other people’s doubts, there are still some who are willing to preserve their judgment until Google fully shows the results. 

FLoC is just one of Google’s proposals in the Privacy Sandbox and there might be new proposals that will take flight.

It is still too soon to tell if Google will really replace third-party cookies and employ FLoC’s advanced technology as they claim.

Conclusion

So what is with FLoC? Are they gonna replace cookies and chrome?

With some still scratching their heads about Google’s forthcoming measurement methodology, it is undeniable that FLoC alongside the other efforts in the Privacy Sandbox to secure users’ privacy will be the future of web advertising.

Once third-party cookies are phased-out, it is clear that Google will definitely employ Privacy Sandbox tools to fuel its own advertising products and FLoC’s advanced technology will be the major element of digital advertising in the years to come.

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