NIXSolutions: Why the Topics API is Not Cookies Replacement

As you know, Google has pushed back the deadline for definitively opting out of third-party cookies by another year. However, developers can already test various alternatives in the privacy sandbox, including Topics, FLEDGE, and the Attribution Reporting API.

The head of the international advertising network Vibrant Media, Doug Stevenson, spoke about his experience testing the Topics API, as well as the weaknesses of this main alternative to cookies. He believes that even though Google is “moving in the right direction,” the tool still has serious limitations.

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Defining consumer interests in just five broad categories would provide superficial data and not give an accurate picture of what interests users in both their work and personal lives, Stevenson said. At the same time, each site can be assigned no more than three topics, which, in the opinion of the expert, will create problems for major news publications covering a wide range of topics, from politics to business and technology.

This is confirmed by the tests conducted by Jeff Burkett, vice president of products of the American media holding Gannett. After 90 days of testing, he found that more than half (52%) of all the content he viewed was tagged with a vague “News” tag.

Getting the full picture is also hampered by the fact that Topics does not take into account the interests of consumers outside of Chrome – for example, viewing on Smart TV or in Safari, SearchEngines points out. At the same time, interests are determined only at the domain level – that is, the technology can determine that a user is interested in golf if they went to a thematic site like, but is not able to determine interest in a particular sport if they prefer to read news on interdisciplinary news portals such as ESPN.

Another disadvantage of the technology, according to Stevenson, is the limited list of topics themselves. Now it includes about 350 topics. According to the expert, this is clearly not enough for fine segmentation and targeting.

Advertisers should be aware that the Topics API is not a standalone tool or a replacement for cookies, Stevenson points out. He urged agencies to test various alternative solutions from different vendors to pair with “themes” to see which combination works most effectively.

NIXSolutions reminds that Google introduced the Topics API in January of this year. The technology can transmit information about topics of interest to the user to sites without other personally identifiable information. The browser will determine the interests of the user based on the history of visits.