Friday, February 5, 2021

Third-Party Tracking Cookies


A tin-can telephone connected by an ethernet cable

Third-party tracking cookies (tiny files that your browser downloads from just about everybody, unless you block them) are facing legitimate concerns about privacy.

Apple started blocking these trackers in its Safari browser by default in the spring of 2020, and now others, including Google, have come around.

That's good—but also a problem for Blogger. We felt the pain for five days in January.

The platform has its front and back ends on two separate domains, blogspot and blogger. Your blog is on blogspot; your dashboard, on blogger.

Stone carving of a bearded man with two faces on both sides of his head

How does Blogger know who you are when you are on blogspot? How does it know to put your email address in the navbar at upper right? 

After all, you are not signed in there. 

The answer is tracking cookies that are "third party" because they are cross-domain. Website B refers to the cookie created by website A to see who you are.

It has been like that since before Google bought Blogger in 2003.

We got a taste of where this could lead for five days in January when the quick-edit tools stopped working. The link that lets you delete comments from the blog page vanished, too.

Actually, what vanished was the information that you were entitled to see those links. The links remained, though hidden.

That is why several unhiding strategies worked, if with side effects.

Google restored the functionality on January 25. But, for how long?

More Tracking

Other parts of blogspot that use this tracking mechanism include aspects of commenting and some of the links on the navbar, which many people have at the top of the blog. 

Telling the Stats page not to track you, ironically, uses a tracking cookie. Oh, and the Followers gadget.

Starting in March, following a change, Safari users had problems with these features. The problems could only be resolved by changing the settings to allow the cookies. 

The fact that January's outage did not touch the navbar or comments (well, not much) suggests that it was a dry run. The Safari experience may be what's in store for all of us.

Because, these spying cookies are going away.  I can't say I am sad about that. But where does that leave Blogger?

Blogger at the Crossroads

I do not know enough to say what Google's technical options are, though I am sure they exist beyond just letting those features die. 

True, you could manage most things from your dashboard, if they are on your blog. (Good luck with deleting comments you left on another blog, though.)

Crossed wrench and screwdriver icon
I would merely miss the quick-edit tools (very much, actually), but some of the commenting features are central to what blogging is.

I think Blogger is unique among Google services in having this split online identity. Google Sites, for instance, hosts both back and front ends on the same Google subdomain. 

There is,, and so forth. No third-party stuff is needed, because everything is together on Google.

So, it's a Blogger problem.

Google could probably migrate Blogger's back end from, but will it do that? Or implement some other technical fix?

We may soon learn how much Google values Blogger!

Timeline o' Links

September 2019 Firefox blocks many third-party cookies by default. Blogger is not affected.

January 2020 Google to phase out tracking cookies in Chrome.

March 2020 Apple disables tracking cookies in Safari by default (can be reenabled by users). Blogger is included in the ban.

January 20, 2021 Google hides quick-edits and some other links in Blogger. Various workarounds emerge.

January 25, 2021 Google rolls back the January 20 changes to Blogger, but not the plan to phase out third-party trackers.

Tin-can phone, Pixabay; two-faced god, Loudon Dodd via Creative Commons license


  1. I get the feeling and not for the first time that Blogger is going to be another feature Google is going to trash, the changes fixes etc are similar signs of there other failed projects. Be a shame if it did but Google's reputation for this type of behaviour is well known. Time will tell

  2. Sites will surely also have the problem if your Site uses a custom domain?

    1. Mary, I suspect that is not the case, because hosting the site (as opposed to the domain) is still at Google.