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IAB is trying to bring order to the growing online ID space

The news: The Interactive Advertising Bureau's IAB Tech Lab is attempting to bring order to a crop of new advertising identifiers springing up as the "cookiepocalypse" approaches.

What’s happening: The industry body has created a new protocol called “id-sources.json,” which lets publishers and marketers list the identifiers they use in a publicly available .json file—in this case, a file labeled "id-sources.json."

  • The .json format is well suited for conveying information between computers because it requires the file writer to define their terms, so that the file can be read by another machine.
  • The result is a file that can be parsed by any machine capable of reading .json, which is any machine with a processor.
  • The new coding convention is open for public comment until November 12.

How we got here: Earlier this year, Apple began forcing developers and ad partners to get consumers to opt in to being tracked, instead of relying on Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) tool.

  • Since the changes have gone into effect, more than 80% of Apple iOS users have opted out of tracking.

The current challenge: Multiple players on both the supply and demand sides are seeing the cookiepocalypse as an opportunity for a power grab, achieved by providing their own post-cookie solutions.

  • Publishers are working on making their first-party data more robust by partnering with third-party vendors offering new IDs, attempting to replace the cookie.
  • Unified ID 2.0, the most well-known ID, was created by The Trade Desk and supported by partners including OpenX and PubMatic.
  • Kinesso, LiveRamp,, and Lotame are just a few of the players launching their own IDs and solutions.

What this means: Even if advertisers adopt multiple new IDs, there’s no easy way to see which IDs are compatible with which demand-side platform (DSP). IAB's id-sources.json, in theory, could solve this problem.

The magnitude of the problem: Cookie alternatives aside, preparedness for a post-cookie web varies greatly, veering toward the "unprepared" end of the spectrum.

  • According to a mid-2021 Adobe survey, 37% of marketers said they are “very prepared” for the cookieless future; 41% believed they will need as many as two years to get ready.
  • Per May 2021 data from Ascend2 and Wpromote, 22% of B2B marketers said they started to evaluate what they need to do to accommodate the deprecation of third-party cookies; but another 20% said they have done nothing and have no plans to do anything differently.
  • More than 60% of personalization use cases are reliant on third-party cookies, according to the Adobe study.
  • And 79% of US marketers and publishers primarily relied on third-party cookies to determine audience identity as of Q4 2020, per LiveIntent.