Is It Curtains for Cookies? Preparing for the End of Third-Party Tracking

A world without third-party cookies is fast approaching. Big-name browsers like Safari and Firefox already block them by default, and Google Chrome —  the biggest browser of them all —  is set to follow. 

First, a quick refresher: Websites use cookies to store data in your browser specific to that website and other sites. The question, though, is who the website is storing the data for. Third-party cookies store data that allows advertising services to track your behavior on any given site, while first-party cookies are those a website uses for its own purposes. 

Like most things, not all cookies are created equal. As browsers transition to these new defaults, some will make the grade, while others will be blocked for good. What does this mean for your website, and how can you get ahead of the change? We’ll walk you through it. 

Are Cookies Really Going Away? 

That depends on the type of cookies your site uses. Browsers are slowly blocking third-party cookies by default — those associated with cross-site tracking for ad networks like Facebook or LinkedIn — but first-site, or same-site, cookies will remain. 

That means that if retargeting is essential to your paid marketing strategy, you may need to rethink your approach. But any cookies you use to support your site features and functionality can keep on keeping on, assuming your users have agreed to the use of those cookies on your site. For example, you may be able to keep track of previously viewed content and use that information to suggest other relevant content to that user. So don’t say goodbye to your cookie consent services either; you still have to give users the chance to opt out of any first-party cookies. 

Why Now? Haven’t We Been Using Cookies Forever? 

While cookies have been a web-surfing staple for almost as long as we’ve been using the internet, that’s not necessarily a good thing. 

Legislation like GDPR in Europe, the California Consumer Privacy Act, and the New York Privacy Act are tightening restrictions on the use of consumer data, and rapidly increasing cybersecurity threats in recent years have illuminated the risks of large-scale data storage. Consumers have also begun to prize their privacy, realizing that their information is valuable and no organization should be looking over their shoulder as they browse. 

Ultimately, phasing out third-party cookies is about doing what’s best for your users. Making the move now can help instill trust in your website, since users know you aren’t capturing their data behind the scenes. Cookie consent forms also put the data you do use out in the open, showing users that your organization takes their privacy seriously and is prepared to protect it. 

How Will The End of Third-Party Cookies Impact My Industry? 

Not all organizations will feel the shift equally. We’ve seen some verticals get ahead of the curve, while others are naturally less reliant on third-party cookies. Here are some key industry-specific areas to consider. 


Strict privacy laws and regulations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) have turned healthcare organizations into pioneers in this area. The Office of Civil Rights even published a bulletin warning organizations about third-party cookies. 

Many of the healthcare brands we support at Oomph are already focused on safeguarding user privacy because they’re used to doing it with medical records. One of our clients, for example, is already exploring adopting an in-house analytics tool hosted on their own server. If your healthcare organization is relying on third-party cookies for any marketing efforts, analytic insights, or other website features, start thinking now about the best way to phase them out. 

Higher Education

Many institutions we work with are using third-party cookies because of digital efforts to drive student enrollment. When implementing personalization cookies, be sure they are implemented with the proper “SameSite” attribute value. Then be sure to engage your vendors; we’ve encouraged many of our higher education clients to explore how their vendors are preparing for this transition.  


Like higher education, nonprofits should review the vendors and larger ad networks they rely on to build their volunteer base or drive donations. Many nonprofits don’t use these services, but those that do should get ahead of the change, otherwise you may stand to lose an important fundraising channel. 

4 Steps To Prepare for the End of Third-Party Cookies

Cookies, analytics, and cross-site tracking might all sound like areas best left to the pros. But there’s a lot you can do to prepare your organization for the move away from cookies, as well as critical opportunities to pull in a vendor to maintain the functionality you need. 

Audit Your Site

A website audit should always be your first step. Taking stock of the cookies you use is the best way to get a handle on the changes you’ll need to make. Tapping your web partner is a great idea here, too. Your vendor should be able to identify existing third-party cookie warnings, which can help shape your audit. 

For example, while we were updating a client’s email marketing integration recently, Chrome notified our developer that our client’s vendor was sending third-party cookies. We then reached out to the vendor to continue the conversation, knowing that those cookies had to be addressed.

Identify Affected Cookies 

The goal of your audit is to identify all third-party cookies that won’t make the cut. Don’t stop by just listing the cookie, either. Review what function it serves and the role it plays in your organization’s digital footprint. You may have to get rid of the cookie, but that doesn’t mean you have to ditch the strategy it’s tied to. 

Reach Out to Your Vendors

Ask vendors about their plans to handle the transition away from third-party cookies, and feel out whether they’ll still be able to offer the service they currently provide. Consider it a red flag if the vendor is uninformed or unprepared; you might have to seek out alternatives if there’s even the slightest chance your current vendor will be defunct by the end of the year. 

Design Alternatives

The end of third-party cookies is daunting, but it’s also exciting. Take this opportunity to innovate on your users’ behalf. How can you design engaging new experiences that still exceed their expectations? That’s more than possible, so long as you have the right tools in place.

This could be a self-hosted analytics tool you build yourself or new local storage solutions to replace the role of cookies. You might also consider a fully authenticated experience for the users of your site. Lean on a trusted partner here, too. Vendors with website expertise can guide you toward the right solution for you and your users.

Cookies on the Brain? 

For many organizations, this is the most they’ve thought about cookies in years. Third-party cookies have become so essential to building a business online, and yet they’ve largely flown under our radar. But while this change may feel overwhelming, making the switch doesn’t have to be. 

Here at Oomph, we see this as a golden opportunity for organizations to put their users first, and we’re already taking steps to help our clients do just that. 

Need a hand bringing your website into a world beyond third-party cookies? Let’s talk about it.


More about this author

Ben Hamelin

Lead Back-end Engineer

On any given day I’m writing custom code, developing site architecture, testing website functionality, reviewing code, or evaluating and contributing to Drupal projects.

I started building websites in 2003 using ColdFusion, working for a boutique marketing agency in Lake Placid, NY. During my time there we adopted Drupal as our CMS of choice, and I led a team focused on the tourism, hospitality, healthcare, and non-profit sectors. I worked on a wide variety of projects, from personal blogs to enterprise level web solutions. I love partnering with clients to evolve their digital solutions, and building software that solves problems.

I try to unplug as much as possible. Living in the Adirondacks affords us endless opportunities to camp, hike, bike, paddle, ski, and my personal favorite - fish. I love spending time with my wife and 3 kids, hanging with friends, and playing music at our weekly jam (unplugged of course).