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Facebook Solves the Global Cookie Shortage

The company tracks app users across devices to prove ads work
The Facebook logo is displayed as Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg speaks at an advertising conference in New York on Sept. 28, 2010.

The Facebook logo is displayed as Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg speaks at an advertising conference in New York on Sept. 28, 2010.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

For advertisers, one of the Web’s advantages over TV is the ability to track which ads get clicks and lead to sales. However, most mobile apps block cookies, leaving marketers blind. This cookie crunch has become a full-blown crisis as shopping on smartphones and tablets has exploded. Last year, U.S. marketers bought about $19 billion worth of ads on phones and $32 billion on PCs, according to researcher EMarketer; this year, the company estimates, the total will be $29 billion on phones and $30 billion on PCs.

Enter Facebook, which promises the more than 1 million businesses that advertise through its Atlas Solutions network that they can follow 1.4 billion users from PCs to smartphones to tablets and back. To use Facebook, you have to log in, and the social network records identifying information about each device you’ve logged in from. That data is stored in your profile, so Facebook knows it’s you online, even when you’re visiting other sites.