Microsoft Working On Technology To Replace “Cookies”

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Microsoft actively developing a new technology to replace tracking cookies; similar to independent projects being worked on by Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and others.   Tracking cookies have come under scrutiny in recent years from regulators and privacy advocates.  Third party tracking cookies especially are now easily blocked through built-in functions within browsers.  Safari blocks third party cookies by default, Firefox is considering doing the same with a new release by the end of the year.  Internet Explorer considered doing the same, but was swayed not to by an executive acquired through the purchase of aQuantive.  Google’s Chrome browser of course has all cookies fully enabled to maximize ad revenue, surprise.

The Do Not Track functionality is also hurting advertisers with Internet Explorer leading the pack by having it enabled by default.  Most browsers also have a private or “porn mode” which blocks many cookies when it is enabled. 

Microsoft’s new technology looks to be able to enable tracking across desktop, tablets, smartphones, and the Xbox.  This would also include Microsoft services including Bing.  Tracking in mobile devices remains key.  The big advantage of Microsoft’s technology is that it could track a user across a platform.  Microsoft plans are in the early stages right now, and even the codename of the project is not known yet (calling MJF!).

Cookies are also irrelevant to TV and web-delivered video services, a limitation that leads some to predict the technology will become extinct. “For the past two to three years now, there has been a lot of talk about the impending death of the third-party cookie,” said Michael Schoen, EVP-programmatic product management at IPG Mediabrands.

Microsoft released a statement:

“We agree that going beyond the cookie is important. Our priority will be to find ways to do this that respect the interests of consumers,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email.

AdAge reports:

Microsoft’s cookie replacement would essentially be a device identifier, meaning consumers could give permission for its advertising use when opting in to a device’s regular user agreement or terms of service. Microsoft would then become directly responsible for users’ data and — assuming it doesn’t share it with third parties — confine privacy concerns to the Redmond, Wash.-based company rather than countless companies that currently collect data on people’s browsing behaviors.

At a basic level, Microsoft’s cookie replacement would take what’s already possible on desktop web browsers with third-party cookies and extend it to new devices like smartphones and connected TVs. For example, digital music video network Vevo could run a restaurant advertiser’s video spot in its Xbox app, then follow up with display banners targeted to viewers of that video ad when they check out Vevo’s app on their Surface tablet. Vevo could even add a banner in its Windows Phone app aimed to drive foot traffic for the restaurant.

Microsoft’s cookie replacement could also factor in behavioral data from company-owned services like Internet Explorer and Bing, sources said, meaning intent-laden search data could inform TV-style ads within streaming video apps on Xbox.

“In terms of identifying the same user across platforms, there has to be another way,” said eMarketer analyst Lauren Fisher.

“Not only would [Microsoft] be building out an ad ID, but they would also be building out a cross-channel attribution model, which everybody wants,” said The Media Kitchen president Barry Lowenthal.

Mr. Schoen said that Microsoft and Google would have a hard time hoarding that data because advertisers would expect the identifiers to plug into the systems advertisers and agencies use to buy and measure media across different properties. Advertisers are also unlikely to adopt a technology unique to Microsoft products and services.

On the other hand, a cookie replacement that would work on Xbox would likely fuel advertiser interest, considering the gaming console has become more of a connected TV device. Last year 46 million people consumed 18 billion hours of non-gaming entertainment such as movies and TV shows on the console, Xbox marketing executive Yusuf Mehdi said earlier this year. “That’s a strong audience base that would certainly be a benefit,” Ms. Fisher said.  “It’s a great opportunity to connect the typical digital channel with the TV channel,” Mr. Schoen said.

Source: Ad Age

About Author

Suril is a scientist, journalist and obsessive Microsoft observer. He holds an advanced degree in Biotechnology with minors in Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology. Send him tips on twitter: http://www.twitter.com/surilamin

  • Yuan Taizong

    This is actually a great innovating strategy, if executed correctly.., this could improve browsing in general, all those companies should work together.

  • free

    lol, Its laughable. So what Micorsoft plan to do is replace cookies with something that not only tracks your web usage but tracks your xbox, kinnect and all other usage. There great plan is that you will opt in by agreeing to terms&conditions on your xbox.

    Somehow Google are evil for delivering ads on the web yet its ok for Microsoft to deliver ads across all platforms.

    Heres an extract from some xbox one patents “The computing system 102 may be configured to track the viewing behaviors of one or more viewers. The computing system 102 may then compile one or more user-specific reports of the viewing behaviors, and send the user-specific reports to a remote device to determine whether the user-viewing goal has been met. ” 102 is the xbox one.

    “the viewer performing a specific action while watching the linear video content. In such a case, the actions taken by the viewer may be sensed by a sensor, such as sensor 106. For example, the viewer may display a product that is imaged by a camera, and the computing system 102 may identify the product.” 106 is the Kinnect. Yes your Kinnect will be watching you and your living room.

    All this from a company who’s data is somehow matched up by third parties for political campaigns.

    Its laughable when Microsoft claim that Google are privacy violators.

    • nohone

      Somebody doesn’t understand what a cookie is and what it is used for. Yes, it can be used to track people on the internet, but why is it Microsoft’s fault if a 3rd party does that? Microsoft actually tried to stop that from happening, but then people in the OSS community proactively disabled that feature. They would rather ignore a user’s wishes to try to screw over Microsoft and Microsoft’s users.

      Cookies are used to used for good also such as keeping track of what you have in a cart on sites such as Amazon. If you want to need to enter your user name, password, credit card, and address on each page every time you try to buy something rather than being able to continue shopping, and buy later, then that is your problem.

      The Xbox patent you are referring to has nothing to do with spying on people, and it is something that companies such as Comcast, Amazon, and even Sony (GASP!) do with movies. Suppose I am watching a movie in my livingroom, hit stop, and then want to continue watching in my bedroom. Do you want it to pick up where you hit stop, or do you want to need to fast forward through the movie until you find where you stopped watching? Of course, people like you will turn this into a benefit for Comcast, Amazon, Sony, etc. and condemn Microsoft for it.

      For the Kinect patent, I bet you do something like this every day, but you are only attacking Microsoft for it. Know a QR-Code is? Yep, that is what they are talking about, if I hold a QR-Code up to Kinect, it can recognize it and use it for unlocking games, etc. I bet you do this many times, but since it is Microsoft with Kinect, then it is evil.

      The only thing that is laughable is how far you will go to try to twist things to attack while you excuse others for doing worse.

      • Guest

        This is why Microsoft is struggling. They can not decide who is their most important customer.

        Google knows: advertisers first enconsumer second

        Apple knows: End consumers first Advertisers second

        MSFT confused: Advertisers sometimes, End Consumers other times but not usually, IT departments often, OEM in the past.

        They find themselves serving profits first and everything else second. They lack a “North Star”.

        • nohone

          Let’s review what happened here:
          1) “Free” made up a far-fetched, tin foil hat, black helicopter, conspiracy theory
          2) he is proven wrong
          3) “Guest” uses the disproven conspiracy theory to claim that, because the conspiracy theory is not true, Microsoft has lost their direction
          So sad how pathetic the Microsoft haters are

        • grs_dev

          All 3 have to please shareholders first.

      • free

        I am a web developer I know exactly what cookies are for. The problem isn’t that 3rd parties are tracking you the problem is that Microsoft are tracking you and this new system is not designed to stop that but extend it not just across the web but everything. from your web browser, to your TV, to your tablet and your phone. When you consider that data collected by Microsoft has been matched to personal data by third party companies for electoral campaigns in the US. This effectively means while they may not be selling your personal data your anonymised data can be tied to your personal data. This isn’t possible with data Google or Facebook sell.

        As for the Xbox patent you clearly have not read the patent and do not understand it. No data needs to leave your personal network for video or music following you around the house. That’s just nonsense.

        “The computing system 102 may be configured to track the viewing behaviors of one or more viewers. The computing system 102 may then compile one or more user-specific reports of the viewing behaviors, and send the user-specific reports to a remote device”

        So its tracking your viewing behaviors and sending it to a remote device.

        “The fact that Microsoft is now spying on my living room is just a twisted nightmare,”
        Peter Schaar
        German federal data protection commissioner

        • grs_dev

          One minor difference that you overlooked @free:disqus .

          It’s very fair for a company that is trying to deliver a pervasive user experience to pursue intellectual property that helps protect its ability to track and correlate viewing usages. This patent is more about solutions like Smartglass than it is about exposing your privacy for 3rd party advertisers to rape your online usage and monetize it.

          Microsoft is not denying that they’re tracking your usage. Apple uses an Apple Advertiser ID. Google has an Android ID. They all have an alternative to cookies if or when cookies become obsolete.

          What you overlooked however, is that Microsoft in the case of the patent disclosure you quoted, did not specify that their systems would:

          a) track you for the purpose of slamming you with ads
          b) that they are building this technology to allow 3rd parties to exploit it.

          Google makes it very unclear why they want to track your usage across any device and any site. They make it appear to be for the sake of the user experience when it’s undeniable that Google could not survive without ad revenue and Microsoft could…