Google Announces Topics API to Replace Web Browser Cookies

Source: Pocketnow video

Last year, Google announced its new FLoC technology with which the company planned to phase out cookies from web browsers. However, the technology had privacy issues and raised many concerns among users and developers. Google announced today that it is already discontinuing its FLoC technology, and the company plans to roll out a new system called Topics API as a new solution.

The Topics API determines five topics of interest each week based on your browsing history, such as “Fitness” or “Travel and Transportation.” These topics of interest remain on your device for three weeks and then are deleted. Google says these categories “are curated entirely on your device” and do not involve “any external servers, including Google’s servers.” When you visit a website when the Topics API goes live, you’ll see ads based on just three of your interests consisting of “one topic from each of the past three weeks”.

The Topics API greatly reduces the amount of identifiable information between sites. The coarseness of the subjects makes each subject a very weak signal; different sites receiving different subjects further dilutes its usefulness for fingerprinting.

Google currently has about 350 topics listed on its Github page. The company plans to add “a few hundred” to “a few thousand” eventually. Google won’t include any “sensitive categories” like race or gender. And if you’re using Google Chrome, Google will allow you to add and remove these categories yourself.

Google Topics API
Source: Google

Google plans to launch a “developer trial” of the Topics API by the end of Q1 2022. This will allow websites and the advertising industry to test the Topics API before it goes live. comes into force. The company wants to get rid of third-party cookies in Chrome by 2023. The cookie tracking technology currently in use is old and needs to be replaced.

The final design of user controls and various other technical aspects of how Topics works will be decided based on your feedback and what we learn during the trial.

Topics API is Google’s new solution to this problem. While it’s unclear how the Topics API compares to third-party cookies, Google clearly wants a new solution after its FLoC technology failed. The company’s FLoC technology involved placing “large groups of people with similar browsing habits” into a “cohort” that was created by on-device machine learning algorithms that analyzed web history and user behavior.

However, it has come up with privacy issues and companies like WordPress and Amazon have disabled it, while no other major tech companies have adopted the solution. With the Topics API, Google plans to correct its errors, but it remains to be seen how the web community will react to it.

Source:Google | Going through: The Verge, 9to5Google

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