FLoC has been controversial, with Google wanting to use this project to do targeted advertising without relying on cookies. But there have been various controversies about it and Google therefore preferred to put an end to it, and today announced an API called Topics.
Goodbye FLoC, hello Topics API
The idea of FLoC was to put each Internet user in a group with several thousand people. All individuals were assumed to have a similar profile. It was therefore possible to serve the same advertisements to this group of people. The follow-up was done at the level of a group and no longer individually. Then a controversy arose knowing that the service was being tested everywhere, except in Europe where there is the RGPD. There was also an anti-FLoC movement and several big sites refused to participate in this Google program.
In light of the failure of FLoC, Google today announces the Topics API. It works by having your browser determine, on the device, which topics represent your top interests for the current week, based on your browsing history. Google assures that Chrome “will leverage a classification model to associate site hostnames with themes”.
For each week, the user’s top 5 topics are calculated using local browsing information from the browser. An additional topic, chosen uniformly at random, is added for a total of 6 topics associated with the user for that week. Themes include fitness, travel, and news, with around 350 themes available initially. Themes are retained for three weeks before being automatically deleted, and Chrome will allow users to view and delete their themes at will — or disable the feature entirely. Google specifies that themes are “carefully selected” by humans and “do not include potentially sensitive categories, such as gender or ethnicity”.
First test in a few weeks
When you visit a site that asks for your themes, your browser chooses three (one from each of the last three weeks) to share with publishing and advertising partners. These third parties will use this information to deliver advertisements relevant to your interests/topics.
Google will release a first version of its Topics API at the end of the first quarter of 2022. This will allow sites and advertisers to test it and verify that everything is working as expected.