The doomsday clock for third-party cookies is now set to 15 months, and the ad tech industry is still struggling to find a viable replacement for the web advertising backbone.
Many of these discussions take place every Tuesday by phone call within the Web Advertising Business Group of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). On the most recent call, an independent ad tech scratched Google's proposal, Dovekey.
The main question surrounding Dovekey, the Google Ads team's proposal to look at advertising without cookies, is who will be the gatekeeper – the entity that holds what happens in the browser to the rest of the ad tech supply chain connects.
Turtledove, the Chrome team's suggestion, wants to keep all auction dynamics in the browser. Sparrow, Criteo's proposal, brings the auction outside of the browser and partly into an independent gatekeeper to increase transparency.
Who will be the goalkeeper?
Dovekey sits a little in the middle. The auction continues in the browser, but identifiers and context signals are forwarded to a "key value server", with the gatekeeper connecting the browser to the supply side platforms and the rest of the ad tech supply chain.
The Chrome team apparently backed the Dovekey proposal on Tuesday, but the rest of the attendees had a serious question: will Google's ad server be the gatekeeper?
While neither of the Google teams said so directly, two sources told Adweek on Tuesday that the implication appears to be that the independent gatekeeper connected to Chrome would be Google's own ad server, which bolsters Google's position and any thoughts would undermine independence.
"If an identifier is to be present internally in the browser, this identifier must be shared with an independent unit under strict trust control," said Tom Kershaw, CTO of Magnite, who called on Tuesday. “And the idea that the independent entity is now the other part of Google? I mean it's just ridiculous. "
A Google spokesperson said Dovekey was an early proposal and there are several options that can be explored, including running the server through an independent organization, similar to the Sparrow proposal. Another option is to use cryptography when looking up key values so that entities running the server cannot figure out what data is being retrieved.
“If it proves to be feasible, more players could potentially run the key-value servers without compromising privacy. It is worth noting, however, that one of the main advantages of Dovekey is to provide stronger trust indicators for the server that will allow more gamers to potentially run these key value servers, ”a spokesman said.
The spokesperson added that the Chrome team was aware of early discussions surrounding Dovekey, but that both teams are working independently and that Google participates in public forums like W3C so that other companies can test suggestions, provide feedback, and develop supporting implementations.
The web advertising group has no decision-making authority within W3C. The aim is to discuss and develop standards that ultimately apply to other parts of the consortium, such as the Community Platform Incubator Community Group (WICG).
According to the latest antitrust report by the US House of Representatives, Google has an "oversized" influence on WICG.
“Other market participants believe that Google is significantly over-represented in the W3C Web Platform Incubator Community Group (WICG). They find that Google's workforce is 106 members, more than eight times the number of Microsoft, the next largest stakeholder represented. Most companies now only have one representative, ”the report said.