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The Internet is built on targeted advertising. It’s a known fact we rarely bring up, but it’s been like this for many years. These websites that provide free information and other content – they all have tons of tracking systems, or cookies. These systems monitor your activity online to come up with a unique ad that will follow you wherever you go. Companies make money from targeted advertising. It’s a gigantic business that generates billions of dollars every year. Some websites are open about it, some aren’t. The truth is, it pays for almost everything people see on the Internet.

The problem with Apple’s new policy

At WWDC, Apple announced something that could damage the traditionally accepted system. The next version of Safari – Apple’s web browser – will come with a new anti-tracking tool. It will analyze and ultimately block any third-party ad trackers online. Apple reps call this tool a new way to ‘protect your privacy’.

Around 30 percent of people who surf the web use Safari. That’s why it’s such a groundbreaking decision. iOS 9 already pulled off something like that, when it was released. Safari allowed people to block ads, which kind of raised concerns about the future of mobile browsing. This latest announcement is expected to make the same impact.

Before the browser is even released, companies are already trying to find a way to deal with the new rules. It’s always been this way, says Marc Al-Hames, who develops a web browser Cliqz that focuses on privacy protection. He says, people always try to find ways to barricade themselves from trackers, and the ad-based industry is always looking to sidestep it.

Big companies win, small companies lose

To understand how crucial that is, we should look at how the new restrictions will work. The Safari browser has had some sort of cookie-blocker for years. Yet the default option previously allowed cookies from websites people use. The new software goes beyond that and aims to identify trackers now matter what. Sometimes, blocking cookies right away could break the functionality of a website. To avoid that, Safari allows cookies to be available for 24 hours after a visit. It also deletes everything older than 30 days.

The key difference here is between your ‘trusted websites’ and third-party cookies you stumble upon occasionally. If trackers come from a website you’ve browsed in the past 24 hours, almost nothing is going to change. Which is why popular web pages you visit daily will benefit from this new system. We are talking Facebook and Google – people visit them every day, often several times a day.

Where Safari will deal the most damage, is third-party systems which coordinate cookies in the background of thousands of websites, like Criteo or Adroll. By the way, Criteo’s stock took a nosedive after the announcement.

It’ll soon become impossible for smaller business to rely on ads

Google and Facebook already dominate the online ad segment. Facebook is one of the best trackers of users’ activities. People use it to access different websites like Twitter. The Like button is the best way to learn about your preferences. That’s why coming up with the right ad is extremely easy.

Telecom businesses like Verizon and Comcast are serious competitors in the ad-targeting field too. They are already on the rise, thanks to recent changes in the telecom policy in the U.S. Both heavily rely on advertising tech in web media, and work in cooperation with other popular websites, like AOL.

More hits to come

So ad-targeting firms that work with less popular sites will take a huge hit. Not a total blackout, though. Modern tracking systems use cookies without transmitting any data, hence, Safari will not detect them. But they will still be in a difficult position, trying to survive in a fight with much more serious players. And they should be ready to take more hits too.

The EU Commission recently proposed a policy that solidifies the distinction between first and third-party cookies. Google itself unveiled an ‘ad filter’ last week. Soon it might be impossible for smaller websites that rely on ads to survive, let alone compete with others.

Perhaps, Apple is trying to create a cleaner experience for users. But the ad industry has been working like that for too long to be ready to quickly deal with the consequences of anti-tracking policies.

Source: The Verge 

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