There’s a lot of info out there about ITP, but it can get confusing. We’ve boiled it down to the essentials so you can get the information you need.
What is ITP? ITP stands for Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) — it’s Apple’s privacy solution to “invasive” ad campaigns.
If it’s an Apple initiative, does that mean it’s only on Apple platforms? Yes, ITP only affects Safari browsers. Though Safari is not the market leader, it has a significant number of high-value users, especially on mobile.
How does ITP work? ITP targets third-party cookies and first-party cookies by deleting them after a set amount of time. For third-party cookies, they delete after 24 hours and for first-party cookies, they delete after seven days. Prior to ITP tracking, companies could set their cookie to whatever expiration limit they liked — 90 days was not uncommon.
So what effect does ITP have? From a user perspective, tracking campaigns that rely on third-party cookies will only be effective for 24 hours for Safari users. (Chrome users will still see them for a longer period, for now). This limitation means ad campaigns will only follow users around for 24 hours, instead of previously, days.
What else do I need to know about ITP? From a publisher perspective, if an affiliate network is using third-party cookies to track a user referred from a publisher site to an advertiser site, the user would have to convert within 24 hours. Otherwise, the publisher credit will be lost because Safari will delete the third-party cookie.
That’s not good. What can be done about lost publisher credit? One solution is to use first-party cookies to track affiliate traffic from publishers. If the cookies on an advertiser site are first-party cookies (and meet a couple of other criteria), this creates a seven-day window for the user to convert and the publisher to get credit.
Impact’s UTT solution, in combination with our dedicated tracking environment, generates first-party cookies that have a seven-day window. This solution works well at the moment but Apple’s ITP initiative has changed the limits of cookie lifespans with little notice and may well do so again.
Are first-party cookies the only solution? It’s code, there’s always another way! The ideal solution is to use APIs— a direct connection between the advertiser’s server and Impact’s. Server-to-server solutions like this eliminate the reliance on the users browser and avoids cookies altogether and are genuinely ‘cookie free’.
But you should know there are a number of ways to implement this solution and they are not all equal. There is some dev work required on the advertiser’s part and especially for big advertisers with complex multi brand sites.
So server-to-server solves a lot of problems? If done right, it solves all the problems. But as mentioned previously, it needs more development resources on the advertiser’s part to implement and the advertiser’s senior technical people should be involved.
As browser-based tracking initiatives continue to evolve and cookie-based initiatives become less useful, the server-to-server solution is the most future-proof, as it doesn’t involve the user’s browser and so it doesn’t fall victim to the browser initiatives to restrict cookie-based tracking.
So, is this only an Apple Safari issue? ITP is an Apple initiative, however, Chrome and Firefox are all restricting cookies and their tracking capabilities with the goal of enhancing privacy for end-users. We pay close attention and communicate with key players in the browser world to make sure our solutions remain the most effective in the market.