First-Party vs. Third-Party Cookies: What’s the difference?
by Michelle Francisca Lee

Have you ever heard of cookies? No, not the typical small, flat, sweet pastries made of flour, sugar, egg, and some type of oil, fat, or butter. The cookie we’re talking about is the ones found on your web browsers. Confused? Sit back and think about this: have you ever experienced this weird feeling when you’re scrolling on your browser and you notice that all the ads you see are relevant to you? All of that is thanks to the cookie that are stored on your web browser.

What are Cookies?

Cookies are formally known as a web cookie, HTTP cookie, Internet cookie, or browser cookie. Cookies are text files with small pieces of data sent to your browser by the websites you visited. Data stored in the cookie helps the site remember information about your visit and it is labeled with a unique ID referring to you and your computer network.

There are two types of cookies—the first-party and third-party cookies:

First-party Cookies

First-party cookies are directly created and stored by the website or domain you are visiting. The first-party cookies allow sites to collect customer information and analytics data so websites can provide a better and more personalized user experience. You can check out the purpose of a website using first-party cookies in the table down below.

For example, when you log in to an e-commerce site, the website will save your data file under its domain. If you add items to your cart but don’t check out right away,  the next time you go to that website, they will remember all the stuff you put on your cart. If you block the first-party cookie of that e-commerce website, that means you have to add all the items back to your cart every time you visit the website and leave without checking out.

Third-party Cookies

Meanwhile, a third-party cookie, just like its name, is not created by the website or domain you are visiting. Third-party cookies are placed on a website by adding scripts or tags for the purpose of online advertising. Third-party cookies are accessible on any website that loads the third-party server’s code. This means that the advertisers can track a user or device across the websites/domains they visited. Basically, the purpose of third-party cookies is for cross-site tracking, ad-serving, and retargeting.

For example, when you visit a website, the website will create a first-party cookie that is saved to the website. Then, like most publisher websites, they use ads developed by other websites that create a third-party cookie that will save the user’s data and save it to your computer/browser.

So what are third-party cookies for? Some common uses include:

  • Cross-site tracking: collecting browsing data from numerous sources (websites) that detail your activity
  • Retargeting: using search activity to retarget visitors with visual or text ads based on the products and services which they’ve previously shown interest in
  • Ad-serving: making decisions regarding the ads that appear on a website, deciding when to serve these ads, and then collecting data (and reporting said data including impressions and clicks) in an effort to educate advertisers on consumer insights and ad performance.

We created a table to compare first-party and third-party cookies easily. Here are the key differences between the two:

first-party and third-party cookies difference type of cookies- kaliber asia

Final Thoughts

With Google announcing that they will remove third-party cookies around 2022, it’s important to start thinking about a world without cookies. This is due to the increasing concern for privacy which we previously wrote about in this blog. Feel free to reach out to us at kaliber.asia to discuss more cookie, advertising, and performance marketing.

Originally posted 26 July, 2021. Updated 12 August, 2021.
Topics:
  • Ads
  • Cookies
  • First-party cookies
  • Retargeting
  • Third-party cookies
Michelle is a content strategist at Kaliber Asia, who’s passionate about spreading knowledge through content. She also likes to travel, take pictures, and is a full-time dog mom.
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