First-party vs. Third-party Cookies – Unveiling the Difference


Cookies are an inseparable part of the internet. Wherever you go, whichever website you access, they are sent to you and saved in your browser. Surely, in some cases, you are able to disable them completely, yet most of the time you need to agree at least to the most necessary ones, so we can boldly say that the internet would not look as it does if it weren’t for cookies. But, do you know anything about them, apart from the fact that they exist? Are you aware that there are different kinds of them? If not, read this article – we will discuss first-party vs. third-party cookies here.

The main difference between first-party and third-party cookies

Let’s begin with by explaining the main aspects that distinguish these two types of cookies. The difference between them goes further, yet the whole distinction is based on one thing – the entity that sends and receives them.

First-party vs. third-party cookies can be brought down to cookies collected by the website you’re on vs. cookies collected by a different webpage. In general, every website uses first-party cookies – they are there to make your life easier. Third-party cookies, on the other hand, have their roots in interactive elements from other web pages that are present on the site you are visiting.

To make it more clear, let’s take a look at an example. Imagine you’re visiting a news portal, and reading an article about a YouTube video that went viral. You already get the first-party cookies. The clip itself is embedded in the page – you can easily watch it without the need to visit YouTube. The website loads a third-party code – the video, thus sending you third-party cookies.

First-party vs. third-party cookies – usage

Apart from the sender, first-party and third-party cookies differ in the way they are used and the reasons why they are attached. The former are created to make it easier for you to navigate through a site, while the latter usually aim at collecting data for the advertisers.

First-party cookies can serve a lot of purposes and are responsible for many elements that you might not be aware of, including:

  • Saving user’s settings on a particular website
  • Authentication (for instance, the ‘do not log out’ option)
  • Tracking your movement on a particular website

Third-party cookies are, on the other hand, mainly used for:

  • Tracking your movement along the web
  • Advertising

It is worth noting that first-party cookies may also be used to extract information useful for advertisers. However, such information will not be as details as the one from third-party cookies, therefore resulting in lesser personalization.

What do third-party and first-party cookies have to do with retargeting?

One of the most popular marketing strategies based on cookies is retargeting. While usually it exercises third-party cookies, with recent Google’s announcement to stop supporting them, retargeting is more and more often done by analyzing anonymized data from the first-party cookies.

This proves that while we can point out quite a few differences in our first-party vs. third-party cookies discussion, in general, both of these can be used to conduct successful marketing campaigns.

The takeaway

We hope that now you understand the difference between first-party and third-party cookies inside out. With more and more browsers stopping supporting third-party cookies, it is possible that soon we will forget about their existence, and only first-party cookies will remain.




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