Well, that happened relatively fast! After years of telling us that cookies are going away and preparing the industry for Google Chrome’s shift away towards alternatives. But when push finally came to shove, and Google rolled out a definitive timeline, the backlash was swift. Here on NameHero, we were one of the first to call out FLOC’s negative impact on website owners. It appears that all this has borne fruit. Google has now decided to shelve it for at least another 2 years.
What Caused the Change of Mind?
I have some close times with people in the ad industry, and they’ve been talking about FLOC as an inevitability for some time. There have been frantic negotiations with Google about what’s going to replace 3rd party cookies, but honestly, Google held all the cards. Chrome was the browser with the largest market share, and if they decided to implement FLOC, there was nothing anyone could do.
So what happened?
At least three things pushed Google to reconsider IMHO.
WordPress’ Opposition to FLOC
One of the biggest scares to Google’s FLOC came with the news that WordPress was considering blocking it by default on all their websites. We at NameHero noted at the time that it was a great idea. With WordPress powering around 40% of the web, the amount of data collected would decrease dramatically, and that would be a death sentence for the AI models that need all the data they can get their hands on to work properly.
WordPress at least was a community-driven effort, and the discussion itself was worth having.
Amazon Blocking FLOC
In contrast to WordPress, Amazon took a centralized decision to block FLOC on all their properties. Mind you, this includes all the companies that Amazon-owned – including a few that I wasn’t even aware of. I had no idea that Goodreads belonged to Amazon! But it turns out that I wasn’t the only website owner worried about FLOC. Amazon wasn’t too happy Google collecting data from their visitors either. And given that so much shopping happens on Amazon properties, losing that data was particularly hurtful to Google.
The EU Got Involved
The third entity that has the power to fight large corporations, is of course the EU. Technically, the US antitrust agencies have the power as well, but they’re much less likely to interfere than their counterparts across the Atlantic. The EU specifically targeted ad practices like FLOC in their anti-trust lawsuit. And the stakes are no joke. Google has already been fined $9.5 billion for previous violations!
Pushed Back to 2023 – Or Dead Entirely?
Google’s official stance is that FLOC will happen only in 2023 now. But 2 years is a long time in the tech world. Plus Google has a terrible record of working on new projects for extended periods, preferring rather to roll out beta products, and then either improving them slowly or killing them off entirely.
I don’t see how FLOC survives this setback. If anything, people and companies in 2023 will be even more concerned about privacy than now. Everything is trending in that direction. Browsers like Safari, Firefox, Brave, and others are taking a “privacy-first” approach, and the concerted effort seems to be paying off. The delaying of FLOC is the most obvious example of community power.
A Win for Website Owners
Small website owners, just like large ones, don’t want to be guinea pigs for data collection by Google. Why should someone else benefit from a user’s decision to visit my website? In the old days, we called software that tracked your activities “spyware”. Since when did we collectively agree to let that happen to us just because the spyware is a well-known public company?
Wins of the consumer and the little guy like website owners are rare in the tech world. Today, we got one.
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!