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The cookie to crumble?

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Tuesday July 14, 2009 )

Imagine a cookie-free web. For affiliates and online merchants, it would be a special kind of hell and even privacy conscious consumers would find it incredibly irritating.

According to AdAge, some in Congress would like to see web sites, ad networks and ad servers to ask permission before sending an ad to a specific browser or IP address and the use of cookies banned.

If you’re not familiar with what a cookie is, it’s basically just a small text file sent to the visitor’s computer and stored, containing information about user preferences and may contain referral id information. It forms a critical part of tracking.

Adage points out that a cookie-less web would mean each time you revisited a site, you’d see the same ads, popups would continue to bug you, your preferences would be lost, auto-fill functions would cease to work and you’d be logging in far more often.

A cookie-less web would also put quite a few nails in the coffin of affiliate marketing as cookies record important referral information. Most people do not buy a product the first time they visit a site, so all good affiliate programs have lengthy cookie durations; meaning that if the person doesn’t purchase until a week, a month or even 6 months later in some cases, the affiliate is still recognized as the referrer and scores the commission. What I call “soggy cookies“, ones that don’t work properly, contribute greatly to sales leaks for affiliates.

Let’s hope sanity prevails in Congress – politicians demonstrate time and time again they have no real understanding of how the web works and trying to control it is rather futile and counterproductive. Rather than trying to protect people from themselves, there just needs to be more education so people can make more informed choices regarding the way they surf the web.


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