Google Kills FLoC, Unveils ‘Topics’, a New Plan to Replace Tracking Cookies

Paul Wagenseil, writing for Tom’s Guide:

Google has ditched its planned user-profiling system, FLoC, and is instead developing a new system called Topics, the company announced today.

Topics, described by Google Senior Director of Product Ben Galbraith as “one of the most ambitious efforts we’ve ever undertaken” during a conference call with reporters, is meant to replace third-party advertising cookies in Chrome by the end of next year. [...]

Topics seems pretty different from FLoC, which stood for Federated Learning of Cohorts. FLoC was intended to analyze your browsing data and place you in one of several thousand “cohorts” made up of Chrome users with similar interests. By comparison, Topics seems more general and should give websites and advertisers much fuzzier data about individual users.

Here’s the thing I don’t understand about this new Topics proposal: Is it baked into the browser? That’s how I’m reading it, and I suspect that means it will wind up being Chrome-only. Why would any other browser support an ad tech proposal that was designed by Google to primarily benefit Google’s own advertising needs.

What happens if a website is dependent on Topics for advertising revenue and you’re using any browser other than Chrome? Will the site try to block you and tell you to switch to Chrome, the way so many sites today try to block you and tell you to disable your privacy blocker?

(If someone out there understands this proposal and it doesn’t require browsers to support it, let me know.)

Tuesday, 25 January 2022