Safari 11 makes some major changes to how targeted advertising can work within the browser. The largest advertising organizations aren’t happy about that, and they’ve laid on some pretty thick rhetoric. In a letter obtained by Adweek, the advertisers claim Safari 11 will “sabotage the economic model for the Internet.” Sabotage the Internet? I have my doubts about these claims, which amount to saying Apple is going to break the interwebs.
A Brief Rundown on How Safari 11 Changes the Advertising Game
In June, Apple announced Intelligent Tracking Prevention. The technology limits cross-website tracking. That means it restricts what sort of tracking third-party cookies can perform. Third-party cookies come from domains other than the one you’re visiting. It limits how much information Apple’s tracking cookies, for example, can obtain from your visits to Amazon’s web page.
Going a step further, Safari 11 will also restrict first-party cookies. The domain you’re visiting sets first-party cookies. These are responsible for web technology like the section on Amazon’s page that shows items related to things you’ve viewed. Mostly, this will affect single sign-on scenarios, but it could also have some impact on targeted ads. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s going to sabotage the internet, though.
The Advertisers’ Whiny Accusations About How Safari 11 Will Sabotage the Internet
Obviously, this is going to set up a nasty situation for advertisers. They’ll have to rethink their game, and find new ways to set up targeted ad campaigns to attract consumers. I totally get that, but the complaint they’re waging is full of rhetoric and propaganda.
According to the letter of complaint, the new functionality “would create a set of haphazard rules over the use of first-party cookies.” I’ve looked at the rules indicated in the announcement, and there’s nothing haphazard about them. If a user has interacted with a website’s cookies in the last 24 hours, those trackers get higher privileges than otherwise. If a user has interacted with the cookies in the past 30 days, some privileges are maintained (like single sign-on) but not others. Beyond 30 days? Cookie goes bye-bye. I don’t see a problem with that, and it sure doesn’t sabotage the internet.
The advertising organizations don’t stop there, though. The letter claims that the whole infrastructure of the modern internet depends on “consistent and generally applicable standards for cookies.” Reading on, the advertisers claim “Apple’s Safari move breaks those standards and replaces them with an amorphous set of shifting rules that will hurt the user experience.”
Umm, hold on a tick. Apple’s not the only company changing browsers in ways that will impact digital advertisers. Google has started testing its own ad blocker that might be rolled out to everyone by next year. For that matter, since when are advertisements a key part of the “user experience?”
Driving a Wedge Between Brands and Their Customers
Because the new technology will impact targeted advertising (until the advertisers find their way around the limitations), the organizations say blocking the cookies will “drive a wedge between brands and their customers.” The move will make advertising more generic and less timely, they say.
Maybe they’re right about that, but I doubt many people would consider that a bad thing. Most of the people I speak with and consult for ask about ways to block those tracking cookies, so it’s clearly something a sizable portion of the population wants in order to improve their user experience.
I think Apple got it right in its initial announcement of Intelligent Tracking Prevention. Cupertino explained, “users feel that trust is broken when they are being tracked and privacy-sensitive data about their web activity is acquired for purposes that they never agreed to.” Intelligent Tracking Prevents helps with that.
Advertisers will just have to find another way to try to get my money. If you’re with me on that front, check out how you can turn on Intelligent Tracking Prevention for yourself.