Commentary

Apple Gives Publishers Another Reason To Go Cookie-Less

If publishers needed another reason to prepare for the cookieless world, Apple gave it to them with the latest version of the software that runs iPhones.

The update could hurt digital advertising rates for publishers, though the recessionary shock from the pandemic likely has a stronger negative effect on current prices.  

Apple last week updated its iOS 14 mobile operating system to turn off tracking of third-party cookies in all web browsers by default. Even if an iPhone user prefers to surf the web with Google's Chrome browser, Apple's "intelligent tracking prevention" will block cookies as a privacy measure.

Cookies are data files that websites put on web browsers to record repeat visits and other online activity.

When Apple first introduced tracking protection three years ago in its Safari web browser, digital publishers felt the effects immediately. The price of ads targeting Safari users fell by 60%, according to Rubicon Project data cited by The Information.
Apple's latest change is likely to have a more limited effect, because most iPhone owners use Safari instead of other browsers, such as Chrome or Firefox. Chrome is more popular on Apple's desktop and laptop computers, where it's used by 54% of Mac owners, according to Netmarketshare. However, less than 10% of the world's computers are Macs, making the audience even smaller.
Apple's changes reinforce the idea that publishers need to prepare for a cookie-less universe as the clock ticks on Google's plan to end support of the tracking technology as early as 2022.

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