Unveiling the Cookie Chronicles - First-Party vs. Third-Party Cookies

Cookies are small text files that store user data, and they come in two primary flavors - first-party and third-party cookies. Understanding the differences between these two types of cookies is essential for anyone navigating the digital advertising landscape.

Christine M.
24/07/2023 2:26 PM

In the realm of digital tracking and personalized web experiences, cookies play a pivotal role. They are small text files that store user data, and they come in two primary flavors: first-party and third-party cookies. Understanding the differences between these two types of cookies is essential for anyone navigating the digital landscape. In this article, we'll explore the distinctions between first-party and third-party cookies and their implications.

Table Of Contents:

  1. Third-Party Cookies: The Web's Watchful Eyes
  2. First-Party Cookies: A Website's Loyal Companion
  3. What's Next? The Post-Third-Party Cookie World
  4. TL;DR: Quick Q&A on the topic

1. Third-Party Cookies: The Web's Watchdogs

  1. Origin Beyond the Website: Third-party cookies are created and managed by domains other than the website a user is currently visiting. They are often set by advertisers, analytics services, and other third-party entities.

  2. Cross-Site Tracking: Third-party cookies are used extensively for tracking users across different websites. They gather data about a user's behavior and interests as they navigate the web, enabling advertisers to deliver targeted ads.

  3. Privacy Concerns: Third-party cookies have been at the center of privacy debates. They can be seen as invasive because they allow external entities to track users' online activities across multiple websites without their explicit consent.

  4. Regulatory Scrutiny: In response to privacy concerns, some regulations (e.g., GDPR and CCPA) have imposed restrictions on the use of third-party cookies, leading to shifts in digital advertising strategies and ad tracking methods.

2. First-Party Cookies: A Website's Loyal Companion

  1. Origination Within the Website: First-party cookies are birthed and controlled by the very website a user is presently visiting. Think of them as a site's personal diary, recording specific user preferences, login information, and browsing history within that website.

  2. Enhancing User Experience: These cookies primarily serve to heighten the user experience. They remember settings, login credentials, and shopping cart contents, contributing to a seamless and personalized browsing experience. Utilising first-party cookies also makes your site load faster, when the information is handled on server-side instead of the browser of the user.

  3. Data Privacy: First-party cookies generally evoke fewer privacy concerns. Since they are under the website's control, users tend to have more say in their operation, and they are often viewed as less invasive.

  4. Cross-Device Tracking Limitations: First-party cookies are bound to a specific website domain. They lack the capacity to effectively track users across different websites, which is a trade-off for their enhanced privacy.

As privacy concerns mount and regulations evolve, the use of third-party cookies is gradually diminishing.

3. What's Next? The Post-Third-Party Cookie World

As privacy concerns mount and regulations evolve, the use of third-party cookies is gradually diminishing. Major web browsers like Chrome, Safari, and Firefox have announced plans to phase out or block third-party cookies. This shift is pushing advertisers and marketers to explore alternative methods for tracking and targeting users.

  1. Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC): Google's FLoC is a privacy-focused alternative to third-party cookies. It groups users based on their interests, allowing advertisers to target cohorts rather than individuals.

  2. First-Party Data and Contextual Advertising: Advertisers are increasingly relying on their own first-party data and contextual advertising (ads based on webpage content) to reach their audience in a privacy-compliant manner.

  3. Consent-Based Tracking: User consent is emerging as the linchpin of data collection. Advertisers are seeking explicit consent to track and personalize experiences.

Quick Q&A on First-Party vs. Third-Party Cookies

What are the main differences between first-party and third-party cookies?

  • First-party cookies are created by the site you visit, enhancing user experience by remembering settings and preferences. Third-party cookies are set by external entities, mainly for tracking across websites, raising privacy concerns.

Why have third-party cookies become a privacy concern?

  • They track users' activities across multiple sites without explicit consent, leading to increased regulatory scrutiny and public concern over privacy.

What is driving the shift away from third-party cookies?

  • Privacy regulations and user concerns are leading browsers to block third-party cookies, prompting a search for alternative tracking and advertising methods that respect user privacy.

What alternatives are emerging to third-party cookies?

  • Alternatives include Google's Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) for privacy-focused group targeting, reliance on first-party data, contextual advertising, and consent-based tracking.

How can businesses adapt to the post-third-party cookie world?

  • By leveraging first-party data, respecting user consent for tracking, and exploring new technologies like server-side tracking to maintain effective advertising while upholding privacy standards.

In summary, the distinctions between first-party and third-party cookies have profound implications for privacy, user experience, and digital advertising. As the digital landscape evolves and privacy concerns mount, the role of cookies is shifting. Advertisers and website owners must adapt to these changes by embracing privacy-centric practices, leaning more on first-party data, and respecting user preferences regarding tracking and data collection. The era of third-party cookies is gradually fading, ushering in a more privacy-conscious and user-centric digital ecosystem.

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Christine M.

Revolutionising the world of Conversion Tracking one article at a time!

Tracklutioner since May 1, 2023


Server-Side Tracking, First-Party Cookies and Conversion APIs for any website with easy installation. Simple yet powerful tracking tool for digital advertising.


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