What Are Cookies?

Cookies are small pieces of data that can be used to identify your computer on a network. They are files created when websites are visited, used to differentiate users and improve their web browsing experience. Cookie data is stored on the computer and exchanged between the computer and network server to know what information to provide. Cookies can also be used to save browsing information, keep users signed in on websites, and provide locally relevant content. There are two main types of cookies: first-party and third-party. First-party cookies are stored by the website or domain when it is visited. Third-party cookies are created by domains separate from the primary website visited. 

How are cookies used? 

Cookies are used to retain customer login, save shopping carts and wishlists, offer product recommendations, store customer address and payment information, and customize user interfaces. The purpose of cookies is to make things easier for the user. Login, payment, and address information can be saved to make online shopping or paying bills easier. Without cookies, login information would have to be entered manually every time. 

Cookies FAQs

How do cookies work? Cookies work either by session (until the browser is closed) or persistently (saved over a designated lifespan). Essentially, when a user visits a webpage for the first time, the site makes a record of the visit and creates a file in the computer. This file is used to save information to improve the user’s future experience. 

Are cookies dangerous? Cookies are not inherently dangerous, they are just small pieces of text. They cannot be used to pass viruses and several different browsers limit the number of cookies that can be saved per day. 

How do you enable or delete computer cookies? To enable or delete cookies, start by opening a browser, then navigate to where cookies are stored. This will vary by browser but is often found in the privacy and security section of settings. Cookies can be managed; there are generally several different options available, including enabling and deleting. 

What happens if I don’t accept cookies? The website will not be able to track or save user information. Website login information will need to be manually re-entered each time and user preferences won’t be eligible to be saved. 

How often should computer cookies be cleared? This should typically be done once a month. It can be done more or less, depending on computer usage. 

Types of Cookies 

Session Cookies: These are used during specific browsing sessions. This means that the user will not need to be re-authenticated with every web page visited. However, once exited, all information will be deleted. 

Permanent or Persistent cookies: Persistent cookies are used to track and store information about the user. This is what allows websites to store login information, search history, and recommend relevant products and services. Though stored for longer than session cookies, these do have an expiration date and will not be stored forever. 

Magic Cookies: The old version of modern cookies, not typically used today. It refers to packets of information sent and received without changes. This is generally used to login to computer database systems. 

HTTP cookies: These are a repurposed version of the magic cookie. These are currently used to manage online experiences. They are used specifically to track, personalize, and save information about each user session.