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Facebook Just Revealed A Plan To Kill The Tracking Cookie

Jim Edwards

Facebook product manager David Baser gave a nice, detailed interview to AdExchanger in which he revealed that Facebook has a plan that, if successful, will make the infamous tracking cookie look like a second class relic of history.

Cookies are the little bits of code that advertisers drop onto web users' browsers in order to follow them around the web and target them with relevant ads. They don't identify users specifically, but they do identify your interests based on the sites you look at.

Facebook, however, is working on something much more targeted. Baser calls it "Optimized CPM." (Cost per thousand, or "mille," is a standard ad-pricing measurement.)

OCPM is so simple (in principle), it's brilliant. Facebook knows that users who log in mostly forget to log out, and thus they can be tracked around the web all day, especially if they interact with those "like" buttons that many non-Facebook web pages have installed (like the one on top of this page).

The difference between cookies and Facebook user IDs, Baser says, is that cookies are anonymous and don't really know who you are, whereas your Facebook user ID is actually you. Also, your Facebook ID follows you easily from your phone to your laptop and back. Cookies can't do that.

In plain English, it means that private, untracked web browsing will become a thing of the past for anyone who forgets to log out of Facebook.

By targeting ads at the user IDs, Facebook can find out which users are more likely to buy things than others. Those users can then be grouped together and targeted with ads. Those audiences have much greater conversion rates -- ie sales generated -- than with cookie targeting, Baser believes. This is called "Conversion Measurement," and when it's linked to OCPM, advertisers will come to regard the cookie as the poor cousin of web advertising, Baser hints.

It's important to note that advertisers won't know that they're targeting "you" specifically with ads. Just that facebook's algorithms have grouped your account into a pool with similar behavior that can be targeted. The system will be anonymous, in other words, even though it's based on your actual Facebook identity.

Here are the highlights from the Baser Q&A:

"The key difference is that other conversion measurement systems rely on dropping cookies on the users when they see or click on the ad. We understand who the user is regardless of whether they’re logged into Facebook on the app or on the mobile phone."

"Once we have this system based on user IDs and not based on cookies, we can use it to have consistent attribution across web, mobile and even multi-browser on the desktop."

"Right now our primary focus is on two things. One is getting the measurement system adopted as widely as possible, and two is providing high quality optimization based on measurement."



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