Google seems to be putting its products on a sugar diet. First, it gets rid of Android’s dessert names, now it wants Chrome to go cookie-free. Granted, web cookies have gone beyond being useful to the point of being a liability. And Google should know, considering how close it is not just to the Web but to the whole advertising industry that corrupted those cookies. Now it’s making rather bold moves that will shake up that very industry by removing support for cookies from one of the world’s most used browsers.
To be fair, browser, more precisely HTTP, cookies started out innocently enough. They were developed in the early days of the Web as the only way sites could retain certain information, like the choices you made or even your login state, across visits. It did so by saving a crumb of data (hence the name) containing that information that it could then read back on the next visit.
Over the decades (yes, it has been that long), sites and technologies have been developed to abuse that simple purpose to become a way for services, especially advertisers, to track users’ activities in order to “better serve them” ads. Those ads, which is also part of Google’s core business, have become opportunities for less conscientious agents to compromise the privacy and even the security of users.
That Google is working to fight such intrusive cookies is no secret by now but it is quite a surprise that it is announcing a more aggressive schedule to drop support for such cookies from Chrome. It estimates that it can flip the switch in two years’ time, with trials for new systems starting by the end of this year.
It’s not going to quit cold turkey, of course, and is developing new technologies and rules that would still give first-party cookies room to breathe. After all, it’s really only after third-party cookies and will let those that do play by its rules operate as normal. This might not sit well with some parties, even Google’s own advertising partners. There will undoubtedly be complaints about how Google will be strong-arming compliance or risk sites and ads not working on Google Chrome by 2022.