Why Are Tech Giants Pushing For Cookie Apocalypse

3rd party cookies are going away, forever. If you don’t understand what it means, browsers will no longer allow any third parties to track you. Safari, Mozilla and Brave already block these 3rd party cookies and Chrome has also given a 2022 deadline. By 2022, 90% of web-traffic will be blocked from getting tracked by 3rd party cookies.

As soon as I wrote that, I realized that it sounds like a great thing for privacy proponents. And it probably is. Big tech giants including Apple, Facebook & Google are rooting for it. However, do you think they are doing that for altruistic reasons? Because they care about privacy of the users? Or do you think they are far more likely to root for something for capitalist reasons? Here’s what’s happening.

Why Giants Love It

Facebook, Google and Apple have insane amount of first party data. They have locked-in users that they can directly track using their own platforms. First party cookies can not and are not going anywhere. So they are counting on the fact that all the small guys will be crushed by the apocalypse, giving these tech giants more control and bigger market share than before.

Not only that, Facebook & Google have already worked a work-around to track all outbound traffic generated from their websites by passing on a parameter (FBCLID & GCLID). So they can continue to track users on many websites as long as the user is referred via their platforms, all without 3rd party cookies.

What Happens to Small Guys

If you’re an independent publisher, I have bad news for you. I know you already feel bad about your business with ad blockers killing you for years, reduced affiliate commissions, and a broken subscription model. Making money as an independent content creator is hard. Unless you embrace the platforms.

If you’re a creator on YouTube, you’re good. You publish and monetize the content within the Google eco-system, there’s no problem for you. If you’re a content creator on Facebook and Instagram, your problems are taken care of too. But if you’re an independent creator outside of these platforms, then hell is ready to break loose on you. Your declining ad-performance is going to get worse. Unless of course, your textual content embraces Facebook instant articles or Google’s AMP. Or you have a successful subscription model.

Cost of Advertising on Facebook & Google

As these platforms prepare to take a larger market-share because of better tracking, ease of finding relevant customers because of tracking, and a better conversion attribution, more and more brands and marketers will endorse advertising on these platforms pushing the CPMs through the roof. 3rd party advertising will prepare for death.

Conclusion

While this seems great for privacy of users, I don’t think it presents any significant improvement. It only blocks tracking for small guys and independent creators. Nothing changes for Google, Facebook or other tech giants.

If you’re an independent creator outside of these platforms, you have less than 2 years to make a transition to serve content & find audience on these platforms. If you don’t intend to do that, you should transition to subscription model. If you plan to continue to monetize with advertising, you should create a lock-in with your users for first-party tracking and sell advertising directly.

Customer Acquisition During Recession

I saw an interesting video by Garry Tan where he mentioned that startups spend as much as 40% of the funds they raise on Google & Facebook ads. That is a lot. In other words, 40% of all VC money is going to those 2 companies. This is obviously going to reduce in the coming months and so we could expect this to reflect in the earnings of these 2 companies.

During the upcoming recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the advice that seems to be coming from everywhere is to have cash runway that lasts 18 months.

In order for this to work, many startups are going to reduce their spending or risk survival. One option that all startups have is to allocate more time and resources to retain more customers instead of acquisition, as the former is often cheaper.

The startups that are going to continue to invest in customer acquisition need to know that the lifetime value of customers would most certainly be lower than what they were accustomed to. Because of this, an immediate recalibration would be required for ROI metrics. Acquiring customers on a better a ROI than before should be the norm for the next few months.

These are difficult times for everyone including us but looking into pandemics of the past suggests that all this should be over soon.

The Right Way to Talk to AI Support to Lift Limitations

A few days ago, I spoke about the visa restrictions on the internet. I also wrote a bit about how you can circumvent those. Today, I’m going to write about a certain kind of visa restriction that I often face.

Large platforms treat users from different countries differently. They do that to apparently keep their platform “safe”. To keep the platform safe, they look at the data they have on each country, the amount of spam/scam etc happening from each country or region and then develop rules to treat each user accordingly. In theory, this means it’s harder to use these platforms from Pakistan than it is from US even if all you’re trying to do is use the platform the right way.

One such restriction that I’ve always seen happen is completely losing access to account. For example in the past, I’ve lost access to my Facebook personal account and Facebook ad accounts. Google Adsense is also more likely to get disabled in Pakistan than in US. There’s always the option to appeal for both these platforms but appeal often results in nothing.

A friend of mine devised a strategy to deal with these appeals. His theory is that all account closures happen with no human intervention. The decisions are completely taken by the machines. He also believes, and I agree, that in most cases the appeal process also happens without any human intervention. So how can you convince a machine into accepting your appeal?

My friend uses emotional signals to deal with this. If you’re apologetic or regretful in your tone of appeal, your appeal is never going to get accepted. You’re guilty and you’re showing it in your tone. Instead, my friend is angry, distressed and disappointed when he’s appealing; and I’ve seen it first hand that the appeal is much more likely to work.

Signing Up For Gmail in 2004 Was Painful AF

I signed up for my first gmail account in July 2004. It was magical. Hotmail offered 2MB storage at that time. But Gmail thought of offering 1 gigabyte. This blew everyone away. After all, there’s no comparison between 2 megabyte and 1 gigabyte. There was only 1 caveat.

Gmail, for a very long time, was an invite only network. Only existing users could invite other people, and that too in limited quantities. It was similar to Orkut, another Google product, that you could only join by invite. The funny thing is that a ton of Pakistanis had both access and invitations to Orkut. But no one I could find had access or invitations to Gmail. So the struggle began.

My elder brother found a website called GmailSwap.com where you could offer services against a gmail invite.

Me and my brother tried to offer a bunch of services but nothing worked out. No one was interested in whatever we were offering. We weren’t creative, I guess. Or may be we offered Pakistan-relevant services that no one in the community had any interest in.

1 day I posted a swap service request that I’d spy anyone in Pakistan against a gmail invitation. A German-Pakistani found the post amusing but wasn’t interested in spying anyone. Instead he was interested in a pirated copy of Entity’s Paradigm (EP)’s debut album Irtiqa since he couldn’t buy it legally in Germany. I happened to own the album but only on cassette. Because I didn’t have the money to buy the CD, I converted the audio cassette to digital MP3s and then shared the album with him over the dial-up.

He wasn’t exactly happy with the results but rewarded me anyway for the effort.

I finally signed up on the super sexy 1 GB gmail account.

Who could have known, I’d despise it in the future.

This Article Will Completely Change Your Life & I’m Not Click-baiting You

Do you know when a butterfly flaps its wings in South America, it can cause hurricane in North America. A butterfly can cause a major catastrophic event in a different continent. This is known as the butterfly effect. Although it is called the butterfly effect for a completely different reason, but the example narrated is real. And the takeaway is that tiny decisions you will make today will have huge consequences on your life.

Let me explain this further. I became a tech entrepreneur by accident. I encourage you to read how that happened. Had I not landed on a random web page that day which happened completely out of accident, I might not even be in this industry at all. If I weren’t in this industry at all, I wouldn’t be writing this blog. And if I didn’t write this blog, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.

Because you’re reading this right now, the outcome of your life has already changed. If you weren’t reading this, you could have been doing something else, that would have had a different outcome on your life. But this article has already changed your life and when I said I wasn’t click-baiting you, I meant it.

I can remember many examples of how small actions had massive affects on my life. I’m going to share another one below.

In 2013, our Adsense account was disabled. We lost so much money there, I don’t even have the right expressions to describe it. In 2018, someone launched a class-action lawsuit against Google inviting all other parties to file their claims. Who could have thought a simple form that my co-founder filled in under 3 minutes would mean we’ll be getting paid for everything that was held 6 years ago. That we’ll be winning a case against Google. Without ever hiring a lawyer or ever thinking to file a lawsuit against them. By simply filling a form digitally.

A simple digital form and a huge amount of money. It sounds unreal, even to me, but it isn’t. It happened because of a small action that had a major impact on our lives. And so if you’re not taking actions, you are playing with the outcomes of your life.

So go ahead and make the decisions that you want to make because down the line they will not only change your life, but those of thousands of others.

Life seems chaotic. But chaos has order. Chaos is deterministic but it’s also very unpredictable. It’s unpredictable because often we don’t know the initial conditions and actions. But if we did the unpredictable chaos becomes very deterministic. And so if you take the right initial actions today, you are quite likely to have a deterministic future, no matter how chaotic life may feel.

Internet Is Centralized & Contaminated

I love internet. I have always loved it and I’ve always thought of it as a friend of a common man. It is an equalizer for sure. It makes the boundaries thinner, reduces some of those “visa restrictions” we have to participate in a global world. But internet is still far from perfect. And that’s okay. But I feel it’s also not moving in the right direction. And that isn’t okay.

Internet was meant to be decentralized. It put the power in everyone’s hands. Until we started to see a few corporations taking more and more control making it centralized again.

As a marketer, I was always told by other better marketers that email lock-in with your customer is everything. I was told that Facebook will lure you into buying likes and then change algorithms. Twitter will do the same and Google will mess with your SERPs too. But email is forever. You reach out to your users on 1-1 basis with nothing between you and your users.

Unfortunately, with Gmail powering roughly 50% of all email addresses in the world, that is changing too. Emails are now controlled the same way Facebook controls your pages, and Google controls your SERPs.

Gmail categorizing emails as Primary, Social, Promotions & Updates reducing distribution, readership and snoozing notifications.

Think of it like this; email address is no different than your physical address. Imagine if the post office decided for you which mail should reach you, and which should they keep. It’s messed up, isn’t it? I think it is. And I’m against centralized control like that, especially on lower level protocols.

Other email providers are also categorizing emails, snoozing notifications and reducing readership in the similar manner as Google.

From the user’s point of view, may be it helps reduce the noise. But as a business owner, the inability to communicate 1-1 with the customers, who opt in for this communication, is not just unfortunate, its unethical on Google’s part.