Is FLoC Poised to Replace Third-Party Cookies For Advertisers?

For a quarter of a century, third-party cookies have been key to advertisers on the internet. However, like everything else digital, it’s possible that cookies are about to be replaced by something better. Now, a new technology called FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) could push aside cookies and give advertisers 95% or more of the conversions per dollar spent.

Google is currently testing FLoC, apparently seeing it as a promising new ad-targeting technology. The idea behind FLoC is this: it utilizes the Chrome browser to determine user browsing habits and move them into groups of others with similar browsing behavior. Its ability to deliver what advertisers need while respecting user privacy makes it a promising new feature.

With third-party cookies, it was merely an attempt to figure out browsing habits and interests of each individual. It’s an effective method, but it’s also something that alarms web users who are worried about privacy. With FLoC, the objective is a bit different. FLoC wants to identify groups of web viewers with similar interests. Advertisers naturally want to know if there will be implications for how SEO and PPC campaigns unfold in the future. 

The timing of FLoC’s appearance seems almost too perfect. Its arrival comes at a time when Google, Apple and other companies are looking for ways to replace third-party cookies. In fact, Google has said explicitly that it wants to make cookies “obsolete.” One big reason for this sense of urgency is that web viewers want greater privacy on the internet.

Better Understanding FLoC

So what is FLoC? It’s an algorithm integrated within Chrome’s browser that understands which sites users land on. Once it knows that, it then groups that user with other users displaying similar browsing habits into something called a cohort. Publishers and advertisers then look at this cohort and devise targeted ads for it.

Privacy advocates will likely appreciate FLoC because it does what third-party cookies don’t do: protect individual viewing histories. FLoC only shares a cohort group with advertisers. It doesn’t share any individual’s browsing history. Each cohort group is so large that identifying an individual within it becomes virtually impossible.

By all appearances, it doesn’t sound (at least so far) like advertisers are in for a changed playing field or a learning curve to worry about. FLoC cohorts will go through public testing in Chrome shortly in a process called origin trials. Such trials provide a way to test new web platform features. Doing so enables developers to receive feedback and make modifications before a feature is made available to the universe of Chrome users.

Sometime in the second quarter of this year it’s expected that Google will test FLoC-based cohorts for use with Google Ads. The search engine company has said that FLoC is in a very early testing stage. They also have said FLoC is just one possible solution for complying with the Privacy Sandbox, which is a plan that allows for ad tracking that preserves and protects user privacy. It seems clear, however, that FLoC is the methodology most likely to be adopted.

A Step in the Right Direction Ethically

Anything preserving user privacy on the internet is a good thing. If FLoC can do that while still offering advertisers the valuable data they need, Dreamscape Marketing welcomes it. We’ve been very vocal advocates of ethical marketing for some time. Therefore, we see this as a clear step toward more ethical advertising.