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Cookies and the Value Exchange of the Internet

January 15, 2020
by Dave Pickles – Chief Technology Officer & Founder

Much has been made recently about the future of cookies and what a cookieless future might mean for the ad-funded internet. Much of this debate is rooted in misconceptions and misunderstandings about the role of cookies today.


Let’s be clear. Relevant advertising isn’t going anywhere, but cookies are an archaic technology. They’ve been around since the earliest web developers realized they needed somewhere to store a tiny amount of data in order to make the internet experience work. And as we all know, technology moves very quickly. The majority of ad impressions that The Trade Desk processes today do not rely on cookies. That’s because the fastest growing segments of the industry, such as the booming Connected TV market, rely on newer identity solutions. Advertisers on The Trade Desk platform can already operate effectively in a cookieless environment.


While cookies and identity technologies will always evolve and improve, what will never change is the value exchange that funds the internet. For all but a very select few subscription services, the internet and all its great content are funded by advertising. And the more relevant that advertising is to a consumer, the more valuable it is to the publisher and the advertiser. There is no participant in the advertising ecosystem that has an interest in seeing that value exchange jeopardized, including Google. At the same time, consumers and regulators are consistent in their calls for technology that enforces the right balance between relevance and privacy.

We agree and this is a priority in everything we do at The Trade Desk. From our acquisition of AdBrain, to our work in pseudonymous data management, we are pioneering new approaches to driving relevance in advertising without ever having to know or hold directly identifiable personal information about a consumer. We don’t use this information today, and never have. Regardless of the identity environment we work in, whether it uses cookies or not, The Trade Desk already enables advertisers to drive relevance in a way that protects consumer privacy.

This also includes the work we are currently doing with Google and the broader advertising technology ecosystem to explore alternatives to cookies for display advertising that preserve that important value exchange of the internet. As Google has stated, third party cookies on Chrome will not be eliminated for two years, giving the ecosystem ample time to develop alternatives.

We are very encouraged that based on our work so far, those solutions will likely focus on techniques that continue to support ecommerce and the efficient delivery of content to consumers on Chrome, while working toward more directly implementing the values we have always supported: Relevance, choice and control for consumers. We’ll have more to say in the days ahead about what this means for the future of the internet.

Regardless of advertising channel, The Trade Desk is always innovating on behalf of its advertising clients. As always, we are committed to helping them optimize value in their digital advertising campaigns, and we look forward to applying emerging identity solutions that facilitate that work while protecting their critical consumer relationships.

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