FLoC! Controlling the web

You might have heard about Google’s latest ad tech technology FLoC ( also known as Federated Learning of Cohorts). It's supposed to be more private for the users but as of right now there are arguments for and against the same.

But before we dive into why everyone is so concerned about it, let's talk about cookies. They were originally made by Netscape Communications for MCI(E-commerce website) as they didn’t want to store customer transaction data on their servers.

Soon after cookies started receiving media attention and started being perceived as a privacy threat by the public. So much so that FTC even had held discussions on cookies on two separate occasions. You can read the history of cookies on Wikipedia if you want to know more.

Cookies are used by websites and advertisers to track users across the web. Ignoring all the abuse of the cookies by all third-party websites, it was a simple way of tracking users if you are not Google.

So you might be wondering if Google takes that away what difference will it make?

To Get the full picture we need to talk about Chrome and Google first.

Google has changed the web and undoubtedly changed it for the better, at least for the most part. However, same Google likes to track your web activities, payments (Even offline ones), places you go, and so much more.

It does that to serve you better ads and better results but it has turned into a bigger problem. There is no alternative to Google, if you are a business then you need to advertise on Google, be listed on Google maps, and thousands of other similar scenarios.

There is simply no competition to Google ad tech business and remember cookies are going away. In fact, Google is under several antitrust investigations in Europe and the US.

According to Statista, the market share of Google was 86.6% in Feb 2021. It won’t be overstating that any changes made by them would have far-reaching consequences.

The problem with FLoC is even if we leave some privacy concerns aside is that Google gains more control over the web. Given their current market share, some might even say it's a little unfair as it put pressure on other ad tech companies to either adopt FLoC or go out of business in the long run.

However, you won’t be affected by this if you are Facebook, Microsoft, or Amazon.

Google Chrome browser is based on Google’s open-source Chromium project. Google went from a cool new startup that is paying Mozilla just to be its default search engine, to also owning the most used web browser Google Chrome, with more than 60% market share.

Now if you are not aware, Microsoft gave up on its own browser and also made a new Edge browser based on the Chromium open-source project. Other browsers like Vivaldi, Brave are also based on Chromium.

It won’t be too unfair to say Google is dominant in both the browser and search engine market. Therefore, it also won’t be unfair to assume that they can choose to adopt or discard open web standards, based on what favors Google the most.

Final words

This fight currently going on between Google vs everyone seems more about controlling the internet than fight for user’s privacy.

FLoC is definitely better than third-parties cookies at least on paper despite some known shortcomings but a situation where a single can company change can change the web overnight is not good for anyone.

Technology is my passion and I love reading, writing, and talking about it. Looking to write some engaging articles about the same.