Cookieless tracking will undoubtedly prove a reliable companion for website owners as the online world moves away from the use of tracking cookies.

This is a real shock to the digital system since these little memory files have long been a key building block of website and wider channel optimizations.

Thankfully, a cookieless web of new technologies has been woven that enable marketers and advertisers to do their work without tracking cookies, and in a way that better protects the privacy of people online.

This Resource Hub will run through this much-needed development in data security.

It will start by looking at the different types of web cookies - how they work, why they’re disappearing, and the impact of this cookieless future on businesses - before looking at emerging cookieless tracking technologies and how businesses can move away from cookies completely.

Scroll all the way down, and you’ll reach a list of frequently asked questions that will hopefully fill in any gray areas you may still have.

What Are Tracking Cookies?

Introduction to Web Cookies

A website cookie is a memory file that downloads onto a user’s device when they visit a website, enabling it to remember their actions and to customize what they see accordingly. It’s short for “magic cookie”, which is the name for a packet of data that is passed unchanged between communicating programs. 

The first website cookie - termed an HTTP cookie - was invented by the Lou Montulli II at Netscape back in 1994 as a way to identify returning internet users, paving the way for many of the basic features that people take for granted today:

  • Authenticating user identify
  • Remembering items in a shopping cart
  • Setting a site language
  • Remembering changes in settings
  • Tracking browsing history
  • Personalizing content recommendations
  • Auto-filling form fields
  • Creating hyper-targeted advertisements

Cookies are simple in their design and functionality, and these little log files of letters and numbers can be opened with a basic text editor. They typically contain two data points - a unique user identifier and the site name, but others also collect data such as clicks, shopping preferences, driver specifications, location, and search history.

Some cookies are necessary for websites to function properly, and to provide visitors with a good experience - most of them aren’t going away, and we won’t see a completely cookieless website anytime soon. 

However, the average website has 20 cookies and many of them are tracking cookies (Cookiebot).

This type of cookie will be covered in depth later in this Resource Hub. But it’s enough to say here that they exist to track user behavior across different websites, and accumulate large amounts of data over time which is mainly used for the purposes of online advertising and analytics.


Different Types of Web Cookies

HTTP cookies have come a long way since 1994, and the various different types that now exist are normally either categorized by their technical specifications or by the party that controls them.

This sounds logical but the content online doesn’t do a good job of explaining this. Instead, the two categories are often jumbled together, making it difficult to distinguish tracking cookies - that intrusive, controversial, and disappearing cookie type - from the rest.

But we’ve got you covered!

This section will categorize the different types of web cookies technically, but continue scrolling and you’ll soon reach information that separates them by the website party that controls them.

Session or Transient Cookies 

A session cookie is a cookie that a website installs on its visitor’s device temporarily - and they’re also known as transient, non-persistent, or temporary cookies.

Session cookies are typically generated by the server of the website that the internet user is visiting (though third-party integrations sometimes also need them to function properly). They enable websites to remember internet users and their inputs as they move around a website, help webpages to load faster, and improve navigation. 

Crucially, session cookies only exist for the lifespan of a single browsing session, and they can become inaccessible even twenty minutes afterwards. They’re stored on the user’s device memory rather than on their hard drive, and don’t collect any data from the device itself.

Session cookies collect basic information on what users do during a single browsing session, with good examples being user login status, preferences, and shopping cart additions, as well as key data on their behavior - such as which pages they visited and their time-per-page.

Some session cookie examples include cookies for user authentication, security, and load balancing - cookies that police the servers to maximize performance.

Session cookies are not tracking cookies, even though they can be used to track user behavior in-site. However, they can’t be used to track user behavior away from the website they visited, or outside of the single session they exist for. They’re also server-specific, meaning that they can’t be passed on to any other machine than the one that generated them.

Nor do session cookies generally store any personally identifiable information. And since they are necessary for websites to function the way that they are supposed to, they do not require consent under GDPR.


Persistent, Permanent, or Stored Cookies

As the name suggests, persistent cookies hang around for longer than a single browsing session. They’re stored on the user’s device hard drive rather than its memory, and this explains why they’re also referred to as permanent or stored cookies - they don’t disappear once the user leaves, and some can lie dormant for years into the future.

Simply put, if a cookie has an expiration date set by the web server (and doesn’t evaporate at the end of the user’s session), it’s a persistent cookie and not a session cookie.

Persistent cookies enable websites to remember the preferences of website visitors when they return for another visit. 

Crucially however, many persistent cookies are tracking cookies that exist to track user behavior across websites. What’s more, persistent cookies have not necessarily been created by the website that the user is visiting. Instead, they’re just as likely to have been created by advertisers, analytics, or other parties.

However, they have many different functions, and many are essential for site performance:

  • Personalizing content to the user’s own preferences, actions, and behavior
  • Tracking visitors and displaying targeted ads across multiple websites 
  • Analyzing user behavior and wider website performance
  • Protecting the website from fraud and other security threats

Persistent cookies can be further distinguished from session cookies by there being more than one technical type, and some common persistent cookie examples are listed briefly below:

  • Flash cookies or Local Shared Objects (LSOs) - these exist to track users within Adobe Flash applications; they can store more information than regular cookies, are harder to delete, and can track users across different browsers
  • Zombie, evercookies, or supercookies - these persistent cookies are almost impossible to remove or delete since they are backed up elsewhere, enabling them to automatically regenerate and return to users’ cookie storage

First and Third-Party Cookies

HTTP cookies now exist to perform a wide variety of different functions for website owners, as well as for advertisers, partners, and other third-party service providers. As such, they’re often categorized by the relationship of their controlling party to the website, or as either first or third-party cookies.

This is a particularly useful angle for marketers given their requirement to adapt user data usage to data privacy laws, and which set different expectations for a website’s first and third-party cookie practices.

Ultimately, third-party cookies are disappearing, but it doesn’t look like first-party cookies are going to follow them into history any time soon.

However, it’s important to remember that first and third-party cookies both exist to track users, but that they each collect and use data for different interests, and in different ways:


First-Party Cookies

First-party cookies are generated and controlled by the website owner’s own server, or by any JavaScript loaded onto the website.

They exist so that internet users have a better user experience, enabling websites to collect analytics data, remember user settings, and facilitate other functions. Indeed, many of them are essential for site performance - they can be blocked or deleted by users, but this can stop the website from working properly.

Crucially, first-party cookies are only available to the domain that created them. This means that they can’t be used to track user behavior away from the first-party’s website, and they’re generally considered less of a security risk to users as a result.

As first-party data that lubricates website performance, many first-party cookies are considered essential under data privacy laws - making them a useful information resource in the current landscape.


Third-Party Cookies

Third-party cookies collect data for parties other than the website owner themselves, and can be set either by a third-party server like an advertising network, or via a JavaScript code loaded onto the website.

These cookies are accessible on any website that loads the third-party server’s code, and they’re mainly used for cross-site user tracking and target online advertising. 

They’re considered tracking cookies because they are often used for the purpose of tracking users.

Crucially, third-party cookies continue to collect data from users as they move around the internet. This can build up significantly over time; it ultimately facilitates the sharing of someone’s personal data with businesses that are unknown to them - and without their consent.

Consequently, third-party cookies have long been seen as an invasion of people’s privacy. They’re increasingly blocked by browsers, and can only be used legally if the user has explicitly consented to it.

A Side Note About Second-Party Cookies

Technically, second party cookies don’t exist.

Only first and third party cookies do since there can be only two parties to them - either the website owner or a third party integration. And since they aren’t technically cookies, second party cookies aren't usually covered in content on the subject.

However, it’s still worth knowing about them since they’re still mentioned often enough to cause confusion.

Second party cookies are first party datasets that have been transferred from one business to another as part of a data sharing partnership, and they come in the form of social media profiles, customer feedback and surveys, website activity, and so forth.

This is a fairly common practice, with a good second party cookie example being when a hotel booking site purchases an airline’s first party data to target internet users with highly personalized advertisements.


Tracking Cookies

Tracking cookies are cookies that can be shared by more than one website or service; They’re also used to follow internet users on their digital journeys, collecting data as they go on their online behavior, browsing history, geographic location, device specifications, and so on.

Tracking cookies make up roughly a third of all website cookies (Deloitte).

The term is often used interchangeably with third-party cookies, or even third-party persistent cookies, and most tracking cookies do fall into this category. However, they can also be either first-party cookies or session cookies in some instances. 

Some good tracking cookies use cases are:

  • When a user shops for trainers, and then sees advertisements for shoes she’s looked at while browsing other websites
  • When a user shares an article on Facebook using a button embedded into the article, and they find it on their news feed when they next log into their social media account
  • When a user searches for cheap flights to Cluj, and later sees advertisements for budget Romanian hotels on Google

Tracking cookies are most commonly used for legitimate online marketing and advertising activities, providing marketers and affiliate advertising networks with the data they need to accurately target internet users with personalized ads around the internet.

They were also equally essential to analytics until recently, enabling marketers to optimize the performance of a website and its tributary channels around analysis of tracking cookie data. In fact, they’ve been so central to data-driven conversion growth strategies that website optimization in any real sense simply wouldn’t have been possible without them.

Tracking cookies have also been helpful for online stores who could use them to personalize product recommendations. And away from marketing and sales, they’ve also proven useful for government agencies, research organizations, and social media companies for their own purposes.

Tracking Cookies and Privacy Concerns

While tracking cookies have been a helping hand for many legitimate activities over the years, it’s now public knowledge that they also represent a real danger to user privacy - both in terms of the amount of data they collect and the potential for cross-site data to be exploited or misused.

Many are wary of tracking cookies for fear that the amount of data they collect is intrusive.
Since they continue to collect data on internet users long after they’ve left the site that generated them, tracking cookies are able to collect huge amounts of personal information and behavior data - including their location, device specification, purchase history, and search queries.

A lot of people are unhappy about this, particularly since a tracking cookie could even potentially be storing personally identifiable information (PII) such as their name, address, and phone number, or even their financial or biometric information.

What’s more, the consequences of tracking cookies make for regular news. Silicon Valley’s mega corporations are regularly in the dock for exploiting user data, and they’ve used tracking cookies to do this. 

Data leaks happen frequently, and people are right to be concerned that the dissemination of their sensitive online data opens them up to identify theft, fraud, and other crimes.

They also know they’re being watched. Tracking cookies are now common knowledge, with a majority of Americans - for instance - believing that their online activities are being regularly tracked and monitored (Pew Research Center).

Internet users are also more savvy than ever. 42.2% of them opt out of all website cookies wherever possible (Statista). 36% have changed their internet browser settings to prevent or limit cookie use (Eurostat). Many will also delete their cookie cache, behavior that all reduces the effectiveness of tracking cookies for businesses considerably.

Tracking Cookies And Data Privacy Requirements

Such widespread public concern about user privacy online has only increased in recent years, crystallizing into the many new data privacy laws that have been introduced globally since 2018.

The European Union’s GDPR is the most important of these - being both the strictest law of its kind and the model used by other policymakers when creating data privacy regulations of their own. 

One of the main motivations of Brussels’ lawmakers was to protect the right of EU citizens to personal data protection online, meaning that tracking cookies were always going to be legislated against in the law they created.

GDPR bans websites from storing tracking cookies without obtaining explicit consent from their internet users. Other laws around the world have introduced similar measures that restrict legitimate tracking cookie usage, creating an international regulatory framework that is quickly making them obsolete.


Future for Tracking Cookies

The future doesn’t look great for tracking cookies!

Almost half of internet users already reject them - blocking the capacity of tracking cookies to build detailed customer portraits and provide personalized experiences.

The browser market continues to move away from tracking cookies; Chrome will soon block tracking cookies by default, while alternative privacy-focused browsers like Brave are attracting users who are concerned about their privacy online.

And in this technological environment, tracking cookies will grow increasingly inadequate as the basis of online marketing and advertising - forcing businesses to dig up long reliable marketing strategies at the root and plant afresh.

Other cookie types can be leveraged to this end, but the arrival of privacy-focused Web 3.0 technologies is making all cookies obsolete - something you can read about in our Future of Digital Marketing Resource Hub.

Users are instead being tracked by IP tracking and fingerprinting, and advances in AI and machine learning have resulted in the development of algorithms that can track user behavior without the need for traditional tracking methods.

These technologies use a range of data sources, including device sensors, network traffic, and user interactions, to create detailed profiles of user behavior that can be used for targeted advertising and other purposes.

In addition, there are ongoing efforts to develop privacy-preserving technologies, such as federated learning and differential privacy, which may offer new ways to track user behavior without compromising privacy.

But overall, the trend towards greater user privacy and data protection is likely to continue, which may result in further changes to how online tracking is conducted in the future.

Effect of the Disappearance of Tracking Cookies on Digital Marketing

User concerns over the privacy of their online data played a large part in bringing lawmakers together, and the data privacy regulations they were able to force through the political meat grinder have sent shockwaves through the business world.

Tracking cookies are now disappearing.

The arrival of this new cookieless world is having a profound impact on how businesses can legitimately capitalize on the user data that is vital for success in today’s crowded online marketplace. But no one has been more affected than marketers, who they were ultimately developed for. 

Some of the ways it has impacted them include:


Tracking Cookies Blocked by Web Browsers

One obvious cause and consequence of this has been the browser market’s rejection of tracking cookies. Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) now completely blocks them by default. Firefox does the same, while Chrome will follow them in 2024 - creating a Google cookieless future (albeit two years later than first announced).

Together, these three platforms make-up 81% of browsers by market share (Statcounter). And once Google has come to terms with the disappearance of tracking cookies and followed suit, it means that 81.3% of tracking cookie-enabled marketing will fail.

Reduced Ability to Deliver Targeted Ads

Targeted advertising has long been the pre-eminent online advertising model, but the loss of third-party cookies is ending the practice in its current form -  making it much harder for advertisers to track users across the web and serve them targeted ads.

This is no small thing, with Facebook saying that changes in Apple’s tracking cookie protocols will cost them $10 billion in 2022 - or 10% of its annual revenue (CNBC). And despite their antipathy towards tracking cookies, internet users are also losing something - 71% of them prefer seeing ads that are targeted to their own interests and shopping habits (IAB).

Ultimately, the demise of tracking cookies is completely upending how users can be targeted online. Legal restrictions and the browser market’s move away from these third-party persistent cookies will, by themselves, be enough to force all businesses with a digital presence to fall in line, or fall behind.


Increased Dependence on Contextual Advertising

Contextual advertising refers to digital ads that are relevant to other content that the internet user has on their screen, rather than more granular user metrics. 

It works by targeting potential customers based on things like webpage keywords, user location, or even weather - a simple enough concept, but one that in practice still requires the input of machine learning and sophisticated algorithms.

It was once the predominant method of online ad targeting, before being overtaken by the user behavior targeting approaches. However, contextual advertising is popular once again, with around 61% of marketers now using contextual targeting to deliver online ads (GumGum).


Revival of Real-World Advertising

The declining effectiveness of targeted advertising has forced marketers to examine alternatives, and market research shows that 19.8% of businesses have invested more in traditional advertising in the last year (CMO Survey 2022).

Traditional advertising refers to advertising that is done in the real world - away from the internet. This includes things like print, broadcast, direct mail, phone, and outdoor advertising like billboards. It also involves going out into the physical world and directly engaging with customers.

Increased Dependence on First-Party Data

The death of tracking cookies has also seen marketers take more interest in the first-party data that they can pull from their website or app - data that has been directly given to them by website visitors.

First-party data includes first-party website cookie data. These don’t look like they're going anywhere any time soon, and enable website owners to still legitimately collect and analyze visitor behavior - as long as the data is managed in the right way.

However, first-party data isn’t limited to these cookies and encompasses any information that has been willingly communicated by website visitors, customers, and prospects. Other examples of first-party data include:

  • Email and text message interactions
  • Point-of-sale purchase history
  • First-party customer call-center data
  • Web surveys, polls, and other questionnaires

First-party data is a fertile resource, with studies showing that those who do use first-party data for key marketing functions can nearly triple revenue and decrease costs by 150% (Think with Google). It can be used to create targeted advertising, but in a different way to tracking cookie-enabled methods.


Increased Focus on Privacy and Consent

The disappearance of tracking cookies is part of a wider trend towards user privacy and online security, with the arrival of a swathe of data privacy laws since 2018 placing substantial restrictions on marketers’ ability to collect, store, and share the personal data of people online.

This new regulatory landscape - and the importance of online privacy to modern internet users - has set new expectations that businesses have privacy by design, meaning that every aspect be built around protecting whatever user data they come into contact with.

We’ve written extensively about this subject, but our GDPR and Data Privacy hub is a good place to start if you’re looking into what data privacy laws mean for your website.

Marketers shoulder much of the burden as per, even if the risks of data privacy non-compliance have increased their value to businesses. Data enforcement sanctions can include large fines and reputational hits, and businesses can even be banned from trading online if they’re found to have willfully or neglectfully put user data at risk.

Practically, this increased focus on privacy means that marketers have had to monitor what user data they use at every point along their workflows. 

It means that they’ve had to develop cookie consent policies and procedures to ensure that they have evidence on file that every user has actively consented for how their data is being used - a time consuming process that businesses can remove by going cookieless.

Guidance for Businesses Looking to Go Cookieless

The disappearance of tracking cookies is continuing apace, and businesses need to adapt to this new reality to stay competitive in what is a crowded online marketplace.

Cookieless tracking is an essential alternative tracking method that can be integrated into workflows by simply upgrading analytics to an advanced privacy-perfect solution like TWIPLA.

Marketers also need to consider some of the cookieless advertising methods outlined above if they’re to carry out tracking without cookies, effectively target users and personalize their experiences - and to do so legally.

But cookieless marketing is still out of reach for many, with 86% of them still relying on tracking cookies in their workflows (Sapio Research). This is a shame given the range of cookieless tracking alternatives that are available, and these marketers will have found it increasingly difficult to sustain a strong marketing ROI.

One reason for their reluctance to move away from tracking cookies could certainly be the investment in technology and infrastructure required to do so. Using fingerprint analytics is easy, but going completely cookieless business-wide requires digging up marketing strategies from the root and planting again anew.

However, it should be seen as the opportunity it is.

Beyond ensuring compliance with data privacy laws and increasing marketing ROI, adopting cookies policies and processes is a great way to align operations with customers on the issue of data security.

There are a few key steps that businesses can take to move away from cookies completely. This has been summarized nicely in our infographic roadmap for cookieless digital marketing success, but you can find more information below:


Stay Informed About Third-Party Cookie News

Tracking cookies are now blocked by default by Apple and Firefox. Google is lagging behind but, when they do introduce new tracking cookie measures over the next two years, these cookies will become effectively useless to marketers and advertisers.

This makes it vital to keep up with news from this website browser sector, particularly with regard to new cookieless technologies and the impact of privacy-focused browsers like Brave on the trajectory of the more established players.

Changing global data privacy requirements are another obvious focus area, but it’s the rollout of digital tech and the impact of this on service provision that will have a much more tangible effect on activities - particularly with regard to emerging trends in data privacy and security.

Review Data Policies and Procedures

The disappearance of tracking cookies is the most noticeable change in a broader shift towards greater user privacy and the regulation of online data. Businesses must now adopt privacy-by-design, which requires that all company policies and procedures be built around minimizing user data risk.

This is something that you can learn more about in our GDPR and data privacy Resource Hub, but it’s enough to say here that compliance requires a company-wide review of all data collection, storage, sharing, and analysis - something that will enable you to identify issues and align data usage with legal requirements. 

Crucially, it also requires that you obtain user consent for any data usage, and that the right cookie banners are integrated across device types and technical specifications.

And when developing your business, it’s good to remember that the ultimate goal of data privacy laws is to give users more control and choice over what happens to their data. 

This means ensuring openness and transparency with them at all times, and keeping channels of communication open with them so that you can gauge the effectiveness of data privacy practices on the ground. 


Leverage First-Party Data

This review of data policies and procedures will also enable you to take stock of your first-party cookie collection, retention, and usage activities. This data is not as tightly controlled as third-party cookie data, making it a viable, future-proof foundation for online marketing and advertising.

A key part of this is the reduction of any data siloing you find - something that can be addressed by migrating across to centralized ad tools that merge data from different devices and channels to create detailed user profiles.

But the ultimate goal is to prioritize content relevancy and personalization by leveraging first-party website data strategically. 

Practically, this means that businesses should seek to collect data from users whenever possible, and should make this a key foundation of any outreach they do. Value exchange is a powerful incentive, but businesses can also ask for additional data when authenticating users, and in any conversion fields across their website.

This progressive profiling is a great way to incrementally build up data on users over time, and to reveal insights about different customer segments while still using legitimate data sources.


Prioritize Channels Unreliant on Tracking Cookies

While tracking cookies have long underpinned targeted advertising and user personalization, businesses can continue their cookie exodus by prioritizing marketing channels that do not depend on them to function effectively.

Email is one such channel, enabling you to deliver marketing messages into the inboxes of your most fans - people that have already bought from you, or who have actively signed up to your mailing list.

Social media platforms represent another marketing channel that can fill the void left by the disappearance of tracking cookies. Companies with a strong social media presence already have a large audience that they build marketing campaigns around, and who will advocate on their own with the right incentive. 

Look for Other Data Sources

Given the shape of the digital landscape, businesses should always be looking for ways that advertising can be precisely targeted without cookies. Reliable data is essential to this, making it worthwhile to explore different data sources that are not disappearing.

Strong sources here include second-party data partnerships, as well as tapping in to brand advocates who would be happy to share information directly.


Adopt Cookieless Targeting Approaches

As with channel allocation, marketers should adopt approaches that enable them to target users with advertising in a cookieless world. One way to do this is to adopt universal indicators to underpin targeted advertising and user personalization, and to create cookieless retargeting opportunities.

Contextual advertising is another option - and one that has been covered in the previous section of this Resource Hub. Other approaches to consider include intent-based, cohort, and probabilistic marketing, and we’ve written elsewhere about how to succeed in cookieless advertising if you’re looking for tips. 


Get Back to Basics

If there’s a theme to marketing and advertising in 2023, it’s getting back to basics and working out the potency of tools at your disposal to drive sales and sign-ups without tracking cookies. So to summarize, here are your key points to take away:

  • Ditch tracking cookies, hyper-targeted ads, and third-party data reliance wherever possible
  • Search for new and creative ways to understand your target audience
  • Consider how the disappearance of cookies will affect workflows across the marketing stream
  • Build brand awareness and engagement through high quality content and value provision

This Resource Hub will now move on to introducing cookieless tracking as an alternative method of analyzing user behavior.

What Is Cookieless Tracking?

The end of third-party cookies isn’t the end of user tracking.

Cookieless tracking - otherwise known as cookieless attribution - refers to the practice of tracking website or application users without the use of cookies. Instead, the different types capitalize on other data sources such as IP addresses, user fingerprinting, and other unique identifiers which we’ll run through here.

This approach enables marketers to continue building customer profiles without tracking cookies, and to provide their users with the personalized experiences that they now expect online.

Today, marketers have a range of cookieless identity solutions to choose from, and we’ve written elsewhere about the 10 best cookieless tracking solutions in 2023 if you want an introduction to the main players.

However, it’s important to remember that the different technologies aren’t all equally effective. Some have been available since the early days of the internet and aren’t even cookieless - they just don’t use tracking cookies. They’re not all accurate, and the development of viable cookieless tracking alternatives is a fairly recent phenomenon.

Nor are they necessarily better for user privacy. While more recent innovations in tracking dovetail nicely with the trend towards privacy-focused cookieless solutions, older variants can be exploited or misused in much the same way as tracking cookies - putting users at risk, and breaking data privacy laws.

Simply put, they differ in sophistication and marketers should take the time to consider the implications of each before adopting them in their workflows.


IP Address Tracking

IP tracking is one of the earliest forms of cookieless tracking, dating back to the late 1990s. 

This method enables websites to track visitors using their IP address, which collects data on their general geolocation and internet service provider. It can also be used to track user behavior in-site, but can’t collect data on what they do outside of the website.

IP tracking offers an effective way to track most user interactions, providing marketers with a rich dataset that they can use for some advertising and personalization activities. However, it is unreliable, since IP addresses are commonly used by more than one person, and are often masked.

IP address tracking is also not necessarily data privacy-compliant.

IP addresses are classified as personal data under GDPR because they can be used to identify internet users if combined with other data points. 

Marketers who adopt this cookieless tracking approach will still need to seek consent from their website visitors in much the same way as they did for tracking cookies - making IP tracking redundant as an alternative to them.

Device ID Tracking

Device ID tracking offers another way to track website users without using cookies. Instead, it relies on users’ unique, anonymous device identifiers, such as their device’s MAC address, IMEI number, or some other unique hardware identifier that is embedded within the device.

Developers have long used this tracking method to collect anonymous data on the performance of their apps. For marketers, it can be used to track the behavior of individual website visitors, and can also be pooled to create user cohorts.

However, device ID tracking does still raise substantial user privacy concerns. The data it collects is classified as personal by GDPR, and is strictly restricted by this and other data privacy laws - making it poorly adapted to today’s privacy-focused technological environment.



User fingerprinting is an advanced approach to cookieless user tracking, and the first viable cookieless tracking alternative for website owners.

It works by enabling websites to create an anonymized identifier or user profile for each visitor, without collecting any personal data. This fingerprint is generated from a range of data points that includes device specifications, online preferences, and browsing history.

Crucially, fingerprints are not stored on the user’s own device, increasing data security and making it impossible to track them away from the website they visited. They also only work when the user is in-site, and cannot be deciphered by any other web domain.

Fingerprinting is a strikingly innovative technology, and particularly so given the level of insight that can be pulled from these seemingly insignificant data points. It’s also the technology that underpins our own TWIPLA website intelligence solution, and you’ll find more information on it further down this Resource Hub.

It’s enough to say here that marketers can leverage fingerprint tracking for all website optimization activities. Since this form of tracking is also fairly impossible to block, it’s also far more accurate than traditional user tracking methods.


Future Cookieless Tracking Technologies

While fingerprinting will undoubtedly be the best cookieless tracking method for the next few years, modern data privacy regulations have been a real spur to innovation.

Looking forward, advancements in privacy-perfect technologies around federated learning and differential privacy could well open up new avenues for tracking user behavior without compromising their privacy online.

Blockchain technologies are also being rolled out online, and several startups are working on blockchain-based advertising solutions. These would give users far more control over what data they share while making advertising more transparent, and this could well revolutionize how tracking is done.

And in the shadow of this Web 3.0 technology, tracking cookies start to look just a little bit stale.

How Cookieless Tracking Works With TWIPLA

At TWIPLA, we’ve long championed privacy. We’re proudly privacy-by-design, and our first priority will always be providing website owners with cutting edge analytics that keeps visitor data safe.

Crucially, we don’t share data and our servers are sitting pretty within the European Union - two further characteristics that make our data practices compliant with GDPR and every other data privacy law that exists globally.

We’ve identified fingerprinting as the only technology capable of enabling accurate web analytics from secure user data. With it, we’ve developed a privacy-perfect website intelligence solution with tools for each of the three pillars that effective website optimization is built on - website performance statistics, user behavior analysis, and targeted visitor communication.

Our software is an advanced version of this fingerprinting model that collects anonymized data, making it impossible to identify individual users. When a user visits a website, it creates a digital fingerprint from negligible data that can be used to recognize them when they return for another visit.

The fingerprint is not stored on user devices. Nor can it be used to collect data on internet users away from the website that TWIPLA reports on, or be deciphered by any other software - making cross-tracking impossible, and maximizing the security of user data at every step of the process.

This approach makes us a leading player in the emerging privacy-perfect website analytics market, and the speed that our community is growing is testament to both the effectiveness of our platform and the increasing awareness about the importance of privacy online.

Today, 2.5 million active website owners all benefit from the precise website analytics they need to grow their website, to do so legitimately, and to protect their website visitors from exploitation.

And without tracking cookies, website owners don’t need to consider consent forms, cookie banners, and other time-hungry activities required for data privacy compliance, and no risk of fines or other penalties that come from enforcement by data privacy agencies.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Cookies Online?

Cookies are small little memory files that enable websites to remember internet users when they return for another visit, and many of them are vital if they are to work like they’re supposed to. It’s short for “magic cookie”, which refers to the fact that this data exchange is not always immediately obvious to users.


What Is a Tracking Cookie?

A tracking cookie is a little memory file that collects user data, and which can follow them around the internet. These cookies have long been used as the basis for UX optimization, advertising, and other important digital marketing functions.


Is Using Cookies Illegal?

First-party cookies are not illegal, but a number of laws have mushroomed around third-party cookies in recent years - notably GDPR, other similar data privacy frameworks, and cookie laws.

These laws around third-party cookies generally require that website owners get explicit, opt-in consent for their cookie policy, and to be open and transparent about their data sharing practices at all times.


What Is the Problem With Cookies?

While some cookies are essential for the creation of a good user experience or enable certain website elements to function properly, others - and particularly tracking cookies - have raised a number of privacy concerns and can pose a security risk to user data. They’re now controlled by data privacy laws, and are being increasingly blocked by default by browsers.


Are Cookies Disappearing?

Cookies aren’t disappearing completely because many of them remain essential to website performance. However, increased privacy concerns, data privacy laws, and browser policy changes have all resulted in tracking cookies becoming less prevalent and less effective as a way to track users.


Are Cookies Important for Marketing?

Yes, cookies have long been important for marketing, with third-party cookies being vital to user experience optimization, targeted advertising, and analytics. However, new cookieless tracking technologies are making cookies less important to marketers as they look to adapt practices to the privacy requirements that have arrived in recent years.


What Is Going to Replace Cookies?

Cookies are being replaced by new, cookieless user tracking methods. Fingerprinting is an advanced cookieless tracking method that website owners can use as a more accurate, data secure alternative. Other methods include leveraging first-party cookie data, universal IDs, and contextual advertising.


What Is Cookieless Tracking?

Cookieless tracking - known sometimes as cookie less tracking - is a process that enables websites to analyze visitor behavior without the need for tracking cookies. Examples of cookieless tracking methods include fingerprinting, IP tracking, user login data, and device ID tracking.


What Is Fingerprinting/Fingerprint Tracking?

Fingerprinting is a method of tracking website users that works by collecting the technical specifications of their devices and software. Unlike tracking cookies, this data file can’t be deleted or blocked by users - providing accurate user data that meets data privacy requirements.


What Is Anonymized Tracking?

Anonymized tracking is another term for cookieless tracking. It refers to the practice of tracking user behavior online - either in-site or across the internet - without collecting data that can be used to identify who they are, or put them at risk.


How Does Cookieless Tracking Work?

Cookieless tracking works differently depending on the approach. Fingerprinting works by building a user ID from negligible data points that don’t put internet users at risk, while other less accurate approaches track users with theirIP addresses, user login activity, or device IDs.


What Does a Cookieless World Mean for Marketers?

The majority of marketers still rely on third-party cookies for website optimization, advertising, and analytics. Their disappearance will force them to transfer across to cookieless tracking technologies, and to review their cookie policies and processes to ensure no trace of them across their workflows.


Does Analytics Work Without Cookies?

Yes, analytics now works without tracking cookies. This is possible thanks to user fingerprinting - an advanced tracking technology that doesn’t rely on tracking cookies to collect data, and doesn’t put user privacy at risk.


What Is Cookieless Analytics?

Cookieless analytics is the process of analyzing website performance - and enabling it to grow - without using tracking cookies to collect data on user behavior. It’s an emerging market, with new data privacy laws and browser defaults blocking traditional analytics platforms from collecting data, and paving the way for solutions like TWIPLA.


Is Cookieless Tracking Accurate?

While some cookieless tracking approaches are far less accurate than the tracking cookie-enabled technology they are now replacing, fingerprinting is far more accurate. 

Since it can’t be blocked by browsers, this approach is today the most effective way to legitimately track users, and we’ve written elsewhere about how to track cookieless without losing user data if you’re interested.


Does Google Analytics Use Cookies?

Yes, Google Analytics uses cookies to collect data on user behavior. Third-party cookies have long been Google’s primary way of collecting user data. It powers their advertising revenue, and this explains why the company has been slower than other leading tech companies to migrate away from them. 


Is There a Cookieless Alternative To Google Analytics?

Yes, there is a range of analytics platforms that don’t use tracking cookies. Instead, they collect user data using IP tracking, fingerprinting, user login data, or device ID tracking. Others are leveraging AI and machine learning to create algorithms that can track users without the need for traditional methods.


Does TWIPLA Use Cookies?

No, TWIPLA doesn’t use cookies. Instead, we’ve developed a digital fingerprinting system for analyzing and reporting on website visitors’ behavior. This enables our website intelligence platform to work without the need for tracking cookies to accurately track users.


Is Cookieless Tracking GDPR-Compliant?

No, cookieless tracking is not automatically GDPR-compliant. But since this law places strict controls on tracking cookies, it’s a step in the right direction. However, it’s important to check that the cookieless tracking service provider has privacy-by-design and other key building blocks of complete GDPR compliance.

Start Migrating Away From Tracking Cookies Today!

Tracking cookies continue their crumble. 

They’re now strictly regulated and internet  users are advised to delete or block them. Firefox and Safari already block them by default. Google will soon do the same, pulling the rug out from under tracking cookies as an accurate source of user data and reliable basis for user tracking.

Any website owners that still rely on tracking cookies will see their performance online nosedive, particularly as competitors adopt cookieless tracking technologies of their own.

Given this, it should be every business’ priority to migrate away from tracking cookies in 2023, and a big first step in that direction is to migrate to a cookieless analytics solution like TWIPLA.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can use TWIPLA to grow your website, have a look at some of the main benefits of switching to our privacy-perfect website intelligence platform, or visit our Support Center if you’d prefer more detailed information about our three pillars of features.

And if you liked what you read and think it might help others in the marketing community, feel free to share it around!