But Microsoft faces some hurdles in its "privacy by design" push, not least of which is Mozilla's Firefox browser.
Firefox has long worn the mantle of privacy and recently solidified that position with plans to block third-party cookies by default, regardless of a user's Do Not Track setting. From a consumer marketing standpoint, Mozilla's move is essentially an end-run around Microsoft's progressive stance on Do Not Track, a mechanism that has yet to be defined by stakeholders in the World Wide Web Consortium. What's going on here? One-upmanship? A anti-tracking arms race? Either way, it's a cold war indeed for advertisers and long-tail publishers.
Gradually, advertisers are accepting that the world is going to change. At the recent Programmatic I/O conference in San Francisco, many attendees had already begun speculating on how the display ad market would be impacted by a 30% reduction in cookie data. Jointly, Internet Explorer and Firefox command enough market share in the browser space that, were a majority of their cookie data to disappear, the effectiveness of digital advertising would be significantly impacted.
"If browsers block cookies, a significant amount of money will go away" is how AppNexus CEO Brian O'Kelley put it.
"Browsers taking privacy into their own hands is a scary proposition for the space," agreed Andrew Casale, VP Strategy, Casale Media. But he added, "The fate of ad exchanges is not linked to the cookie though."
That's an important point. Even without third-party cookie data, or a viable replacement in the form of device fingerprinting technologies, the ad targeting business will continue. And it will be dominated by very large companies with strong first-party consumer relationships – companies like Google, Yahoo, Aol, Amazon and eBay.
And, oh yeah, Microsoft.