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Third-Party Cookies vs First-Party Cookies

Who wants a cookie?

What are cookies? Here are a few over-lapping definitions;

  1. A small data file placed on your computer by a website that you visit.
  2. A piece of code placed in your browser by a website server.
  3. A text file placed on a hard drive to store and transmit information to the server of websites (re)visited from that browser / computer.

What is a (third-party) cookie?

A cookie is a small script placed on the hard drive of  your computer by the server of a website that you visit. The cookie is placed there for the purpose of recognising your specific browser / computer combination, were you to return to the same site.

All cookies have an owner which tells you who the cookie belongs to. The owner is the domain specified in the cookie.

The word "party" refers to the domain as specified in cookie; the website that is placing the cookie. So, for example, if you visit widgets.com and the domain of the cookie placed on your computer is widgets.com, then this is a first-party cookie. If, however, you visit widgets.com and the cookie placed on your computer says stats-for-free.com, then this is a third-party cookie.

Opentracker provides services that allow the companies and websites to track their visitors with first-party cookies.

Growth of third party cookie rejection

Reports and research on the subject of website tracking tell us that the rejection of third-party cookies is growing. Increasing numbers of people are either manually blocking third-party cookies, or deleting them regularly.

That is why Opentracker utilizes 1st party cookie technology.

The cookies being deleted / blocked are third-party party cookies, as opposed to less problematic first-party cookies.

How many people delete 3rd party cookies? The numbers given can be as high as 40%. If you count that many anti-spyware applications and default privacy settings also block 3rd party cookies, then it is possible that a high percentage of cookies are being blocked.

Blocking and deleting cookies

Why do far fewer people block first-party cookies? It is estimated that a very low percentage of people block first party cookies, less than 5%. The reason for this is primarily that it is very difficult to surf the internet without accepting these cookies. First party cookies are necessary in order for you to be recognised as an individual. Any site that you login to as an individual requires a way of identifying you as "you". Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, online banking, ebay, Amazon, etc.

Additionally, anti-spyware software and privacy settings do not target first-party cookies.

Unique visitorsWe use cookies to keep track of long-term visitors. These visitors remain anonymous, the point is to be able to see who returns, if and when, for example, for conversion analysis.

We use first party cookies as our first line of analysis, and ip number with user agent as the secondary line. AOL users are identified more specifically because their ip number changes with every click.

What actually happens when cookies are blocked / rejected?

1st party cookies: it is very hard to login anywhere

3rd party cookies: no adverse effects to surfing

Q: How does this affect tracking systems, when people block / delete cookies?

A: All visits will still be recorded, but a person who has deleted the cookies will not be recognised as the same (returning) visitor.

When cookies are in place, and not blocked or deleted, total visitor counts will remain comparatively low. If a person constantly deletes cookies, they will be counted as a new "unique" visitor with every subsequent visit.

Conclusion

In response to these trends, the first step is to find out if the statistics that you collect utilise first-party or third-party cookies. Ask your statistics or tracking company. Asking questions usually leads to more questions, always a good thing when it comes to gathering and analysing data.

 

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