Google is looking at a system which would replace 'cookies' with a system of anonymous identifiers for individual consumers, according to an official of the company.
The comments were reported in USA Today and the Wall Street Journal.
The cookie has become synonymous with web tracking, and a move away from it would require re-writes - and in some cases whole new business models - for many companies operating in the online advertising and tracking space.
One possible reason for considering replacements is that browser firms including Mozilla and Microsoft have been announcing and introducing cookie blockers.
From a privacy and security point of view, some would welcome an end to the storing of files on consumers' own PCs, but it's unclear whether the new system would be any better, or whether it may indeed represent a greater 'threat' in the eyes of campaigners. Some have expressed fears that it would concentrate more power in the hands of a few large companies such as Google, with the scale to maintain such a system of identifiers, forcing advertisers to deal through them instead of tracking consumers themselves; and others that it would open the way for advertisers to follow individuals on longer online journeys, rather than (as at present) simply knowing which sites they have visited.
Google stresses that it is 'in the early stages' looking at this and other 'technological enhancements', and says it believes such innovations 'can improve users' security while ensuring the Web remains economically viable'.
All articles 2006-19 written and edited by Mel Crowther and/or Nick Thomas.