A development that continues to rattle the affiliate marketing industry has just been taken up a notch with Apple reportedly releasing a beta version of its Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) tool for the Safari browser, currently designed to dynamically manage site cookies to make sure that websites cannot use cross-site tracking and third-party cookies to stay on their users’ tracks while browsing around the web.

The beta version was rolled out last week (February 21) with the full changes announced on the WebKit site. One of the main features introduced is a restriction on first-party cookies with their lifespan now capped to seven days. According to a statement on Webkit, the reason for this change cover privacy, security, and performance.

The end of cookie tracking as we know it?

The introduction of ITP has shaken the affiliate channel with traditional tracking methods from networks and the advertisers that use them all somewhat impacted. With these changes on Safari browser and just recently Mozilla Firefox, there are even more concerns of commission loses, the accuracy of tracking and rewarding affiliates for the sales that are generated. With as many as one in three sales being tracked through Safari and almost 5% of web interactions taking place via Firefox, the imperative is obvious.

Last month saw a number of leading networks, agencies and tech providers band together to urge all advertisers to implement fit-for-purpose tracking solutions that fairly reward their publishers. While several parties have been upfront in updating their tracking solutions to first-party, the ITP 2.1 update will leave things in uncertainty as the capped lifespan of first-party cookie data on Safari will lead merchants and networks to explore other solutions to ensure the affiliate channel is fully protected from ITP. The good news, for now, is that most Safari sales convert within the seven day period so the impact of this update could be minimal for the time being, but nonetheless, it means that first-party cookie tracking alone will not be enough to dampen the full features of ITP 2.1.

What are your thoughts on Apple’s ITP 2.1 Beta for Safari – is this the end for cookie tracking on the browser as we know it? Continue the discussion in the comments below.