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Microsoft's Plans To Toss Its Cookies

Microsoft is joining the chorus of tech companies, notably Google, that plan to do away with cookies, the tracking component used on the Web that's typically exploited by advertisers.

AdAge last month reported that Microsoft is developing new ad-tracking technology that would work across PCs, tablets, smartphones and its Xbox gaming platform. The new ad-tracking component would also be integrated into Internet Explorer and Bing, the report noted.

The move doesn't appear to be intended for your convenience though. It's more about continuing ad tracking across TV and video broadcast networks. Michael Schoen, EVP-programmatic product management at IPG Mediabrands, told AdAge that cookies have become irrelevant for television and Web-based video delivery. "For the past two to three years now, there has been a lot of talk about the impending death of the third-party cookie," he said.

Microsoft is developing a "device-identifier" to replace cookies, AdAge reported, meaning users would give permission to share information via a device's terms of service.

"Microsoft would then become directly responsible for users' data and -- assuming it doesn't share it with third parties -- confine privacy concerns to the Redmond, Wash.-based company rather than countless companies that currently collect data on people's browsing behaviors."

Rather than letting hundreds or thousands of advertisers put cookies in the browser, the "device-identifier" would be the sole component doing the tracking. With Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and other large players developing similar technologies, there will ultimately be a smaller pool of those tracking user data.  

Windows 8.1, which shipped last month, includes a new identifier designed to render higher quality and more targeted ads in Windows Store apps, while providing other services, including analytics and app-discovery, said Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft's corporate VP for Microsoft's development platform, in a blog post.  Users can turn on and off the advertising ID, Guggenheimer noted.

In addition, Windows 8.1 ships with Internet Explorer 11, which comes with a "do-not-track" feature turned on by default. However, Microsoft's do-not-track feature is just a URL string that signals the user's preference to third-party advertisers. It's up to the advertiser to honor the request or not. Microsoft recently admitted that its efforts to standardize do-not-track browser technology at the Worldwide Web Consortium is mired by disagreement among browser makers and other stakeholders.

While not addressing plans to eliminate cookie use with Internet Explorer, Guggenheimer announced the release of SDKs for developers to implement the advertising ID, though he noted more SDKs are in the works.

What remains to be seen, of course, is whether eliminating cookies will improve the performance of Internet Explorer or if the new ad identifier will come with its own baggage.


Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 11/08/2013 at 3:42 PM


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