In the W3C, the Post-Cookie Conversation Finds Consensus

As the advertising industry braces itself for the deprecation of third-party cookies at the end of this year, web standards body the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is getting closer to reaching a consensus among its members on privacy-centric ad-tech that could power advertising in a cookieless future.

In August, Apple introduced a new version of its attribution proposal to the W3C, drawing ideas from the competing proposals of Google and Meta/Mozilla (which have been working together in the W3C).

Last week, Meta floated a new technical approach to its proposal that brings it closer to Apple’s framework at a meeting of the Private Advertising Technology Community Group within the W3C.

These developments from Apple and Meta are significant because if the W3C can usher in a new web standard for advertising without cookies, the major browsers would need to broadly agree. For this to happen, the different proposals of each browser need to be revised to become more similar until they morph into a shared vision.

“It’s interesting to see the size of the very large companies that are cooperating for a unified standard for this kind of thing,” said Don Marti, vice president of ecosystem innovation at publisher network Raptive and participant in the PATCG.

Standards organization the W3C—responsible for crafting technical policies for the structure of the internet—has been around since 1994 and counts nearly 370 members, including Meta, Microsoft, Google, The Trade Desk and The Washington Post. The W3C gained wider awareness among advertisers once Google announced cookie deprecation.

Notably, the W3C meetings last week provided a forum for the IAB Tech Lab and Google to thrash out some disagreements regarding Google’s Privacy Sandbox proposals, specifically the Attribution Reporting application-programming interface.

“We’re excited to see multiple browsers bringing proposals and that those proposals share similarities with the Attribution Reporting API,” a Google spokesperson said. “There’s clearly increasing alignment on the need for privacy-centric solutions that support an open web.”

The recent tone of W3C meetings contrasts with the broader industrywide conversation on cookieless advertising, which has been marred with inaction and discord. But the ability of this work to become anything more than productive conversations also depends on the W3C’s own politics.

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