Filling the gaps in a new software category

Tracking protection is like bandwidth: you can usually make more money on the Internet when other people have it. While most of the IT industry is chasing the surveillance marketing bubble, tracking protection is a new software category, with opportunites to build. For example, tracking protection is still, like early spam filters, managed by individual users. Corporate IT does not yet have a good way to check and update the tracking protection on end-user devices. Adding a reverse tracking wall to Intranet pages is a start, but more functionality is needed.

The other area in progress is tracking protection for sites and brands. High-reputation web sites can do better with a tracking-protected audience. If your site reviews cars, third-party firms are tracking car intenders to show them car ads on cat GIF sites. Tracking doesn't just make users less trusting of the web in general, but, worse, it artifically inflates the number of impressions available, and destroys signal.

As the print audience shrinks, brands need the web to grow up into an ad medium where brand advertising works better, and fraud works less well. So far, the web is the best contender to fill the vanishing brand-building niche of the magazine ad, but only after the web can fix its data leakage problem, and the fraud, malware, and signal loss that flow from it.

An individual site or brand can't protect users just by giving up its own connections to third-party trackers. Those users will still be tracked on other sites. Users need to get tracking protection at the browser or platform level. Just as an email newsletter can do better when a subscriber turns on well-run spam filter, a high-value web site or brand can gain from each tracking-protected audience member.

Fortunately, there is no need to wait for collective action or long-term projects. Tracking protection for sites and brands can be simple. Getting started can be a one-line change, such as:

Every user that a site or brand can help to protect starts paying off right away, not just as one more person not running an ad blocker, but more importantly in the form of reduced data leakage and fraud. And that user's tracking protection continues to pay off, in the form of reduced exposure to low-reputation ads, and increased opportunity for signal.

Don Marti · #