Google Sunsets FLoC, Announces New Topics API Solution

Google has announced its new user privacy and targeting solution, Topics API, which will replace the much-criticized FLoC solution.

The days of Google’s user-targeting solution, FLoC (Funded Learning for Clusters), are officially over.

This change came as a surprise after Google had been preparing marketers to remove third-party cookies since early 2021.

What is FLoC?

If you don’t know what FLoC is, here’s a brief overview. You may have heard about it in industry news, but what does it actually mean?

FLoC (Founded Learning for Groups) was introduced in March of 2021. It was a Privacy Sandbox initiative that would basically allow browsers to enable interest-based targeting.

The solution was introduced due to concern that third party cookies might be removed from the Google Chrome browser in 2023.

The FLoC solution would have been a big change because individuals are grouped into groups in order to maintain anonymity and user privacy.

Advertisers will be able to target based on those groups, but the effects of individual targeting remain a concern. Cohorts will consist of thousands of users, not the individuals themselves.

New Threads API

It appears that Google has taken the feedback from the ad community seriously with their introduction of the Topics API solution.

Topics API is a Privacy Sandbox solution for interest-based advertising.

The main difference between Topics and FLoC is how they collect target interests.

Using the new Topics API solution, your browsing behavior selects “topics” of your individual interest for that particular week. These topics are only stored for three weeks, and then deleted.

Themes are stored only on the user’s device, which eliminates the need for external servers, including Google’s servers.

How do threads differ from FLoC?

While both targeting solutions revolve around user interests, there are some key differences between them.

The biggest difference is that the interests of the topics will be removed from the user every 3 weeks. While FLoC grouped users into groups, there was no time limit on how long a user could stay within this cohort.

In addition, the previous FLoC solution may result in a group ID that advertisers can use for targeting. The new Topics API solution will not contain group identifiers and will use themes to share with advertisers and websites.

Besides the functional differences between the two solutions, there are differences in user privacy controls as well.

With a themes API, it puts the user in control. Users will be able to view topics associated with them. Individuals will also have the ability to opt out of Topics altogether, or remove specific Topics associated with them.

Sites that are a sensitive category are automatically excluded from the user, such as race or sexual orientation. This update keeps user safety first.

Why should advertisers care?

Google is still moving forward with removing third-party cookies sometime in 2023. Because of this change, advertisers need to know their options.

Knowing about this new targeting solution will help advertisers start planning how, if anything, they will change their strategy based on these changes. Understanding which topics will be available later in the year can shed light on how targeted you are with your ads.

Remarketing efforts (outside of first-party data) will likely still be limited by individual user privacy. You may need to change your advertising approach to focus on the best way to capture first-party data as early as possible in the customer journey, rather than relying on browser activity to close the sale.

Source: The Google

Image credit: Andrey Suslov/Shutterstock

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