Firefox 22 & Cookies

posted by Francis Cooney - Product Owner11 Jun 2013

Ever since Mozilla announced they would block third party cookies in version 22 of their Firefox web browser, the online advertising industry has been looking for solutions to limit the impact.

This is understandable given Firefox’s market penetration; in April 2013 Firefox accounted for 28% of internet traffic across Europe, ranging from 14% in Denmark to 47% in Germany according to StatCounter. However, Firefox’s market share continues to decrease with the rise of Google Chrome.

Importantly, Mozilla force-update a user’s web browser when it is opened, meaning they have an impressive update rate. There is a clear pattern with approximately 17% of users updating within one month of a new release with this figure rising to 66% after two months. If the update were to go ahead as planned on 25th June 2013 we can expect the main impact from the end of August. After discussions with Mozilla this release date seems unlikely as they admit “the patch as-is needs more work”.

What is Changing?

To identify a solution to this update we must first understand what will happen in version 22 of the browser.

Mozilla is proposing a block on all third party cookies to “more closely reflect the user privacy preferences” according to its developer, Jonathan Mayer.

There is however one exception to this block – if the user already has a first party cookie from the site on their device then third party cookies from the site will also be accepted. This would be the case if the user had previously visited the Tradedoubler site or interacted with a Tradedoubler link.

Post-click Tracking

This highlights an important point for publishers and advertisers – post-click tracking through Tradedoubler will not be affected by this change. Once a user clicks on a publisher’s link they are sent to the advertiser’s site via Tradedoubler’s servers where a first party cookie is set.

Using this type of redirect and a first party cookie means our click tracking remains secure and highly accurate despite the Firefox update. Publishers can be confident that they’ll be rewarded for all of their transactions with no impact on the user journey whilst advertisers need not worry about missing transactions.

Post-impression & Retargeting

Post-impression tracking and retargeting, on the other hand, rely on third party cookies. It is important to remember that Firefox 22 will not block 100% of these cookies. If the user already has a first party cookie from Tradedoubler on their device the third party cookie will be accepted.

This is where Tradedoubler’s unrivalled European reach benefits publishers and advertisers. The user only needs to click on one Tradedoubler link – for any publisher or advertiser in any country – for Firefox to accept all Tradedoubler third party impression or retargeting cookies. With a network of over 140,000 publishers operating in 18 countries it is highly likely that the user will have interacted with a Tradedoubler link at some point in their journey.

It’s also worth remembering that the user’s cookies will not be wiped during the browser update process. So if they already hold a first party cookie from Tradedoubler it will remain in place.

What’s the Solution?

User privacy is a key topic and has been highlighted in the recent EU cookie directive. Tradedoubler respects this stance and is working closely with advertisers and publishers to improve the transparency of cookie usage on sites within our network. We feel that providing users with the facts about our cookies and how they are used will allow them to make an informed decision about their privacy settings. At the same time we must also protect the interests of publishers.

Whilst Tradedoubler’s unique reach dramatically reduces the impact, we are also looking at other ways to tackle the Firefox update. Some solutions rely on forcing a click at the time of impression and therefore set a first party cookie. Whilst this circumvents the problem, Tradedoubler believe it is an unethical approach and risks taking us back to the murky days of online display advertising. Also, it doesn’t provide an industry-wide solution; meaning publishers and advertisers would be forced to implement a myriad of solutions to work across multiple networks.

Instead we are looking at options such as device recognition, using non-personally identifiable information that is freely available from a user’s device. Using advanced matching algorithms a single device can be recognized at the point of impression/click and conversion without the use of cookies. As a widely used and trusted technology it would provide a clear and transparent option for the industry to adopt.

This debate will continue as the release date approaches but publishers and advertisers can be confident in Tradedoubler’s industry leading tracking and unique European reach to mitigate the risks.

Tags: News (163), Publisher Support (18)

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