After announcing that it would get rid of third-party cookies from Chrome, Google announced on Wednesday that it won't be replacing them with anything. "Today, we're making explicit that once third-party cookies are phased out," Google's David Temkin wrote in a blog post, "we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products."
Google plans to replace those tracking cookies with more privacy-focused tools like FLoC, which creates groups of people with common interests rather than identifying and collecting data on specific users. And, of course, first-party cookies will continue to be crucial to ad platforms from Google and everyone else. (Notably, the Wall Street Journal reported that the announcement also doesn't cover mobile apps.)
It's just one company and just one browser, but Google owns about half the digital ad market, and Chrome is by far the world's most popular browser. While Apple and others have been pushing more privacy-focused tools for a while, no other company can singlehandedly shape the ad business the way Google can. Critics argue that Google is shaping that business to give itself more power, of course, since it leaves Google as a uniquely powerful store of user data. But Google argues it's simply doing what's best for the internet.