Internet Cookies And How They Work

As you surf the web it is good to know the difference between a regular cookie and internet cookies.

A regular cookie is a baked or cooked food that is usually small, flat, and sweet. It usually contains some combination of flour, sugar, and oil or fat. Common types include chocolate chip, sugar, and oatmeal raisin. But that's probably not why you're here.

Internet cookies (also called web cookie, HTTP cookie, or browser cookie), unlike a cookie cookie, is a small text file sent from a website and stored by the browser on the user's computer. Websites use cookies to remember data about the user's actions, including clicking certain buttons, visiting certain pages, entering names and passwords, and more.  Think of cookies like a unique footprint you leave on every website you visit. The footprint allows the websites to follow your tracks and remember certain things about your browsing habits. Cookies are quite useful for streamlining your browser experience. For example, it helps websites take you back to where you left off, remember your login information, preferences, and if there were any items in your shopping cart.

How Do Internet Cookies Work?

When you visit a website that uses cookies, your actions on the website are stored on your computer as text files. The next time you visit the site, your browser will "pull" those cookies and send them to the web server. The website will then be able to use those cookies to bring you back to a "saved" version of the website.

cookies displayed on internet codeEssentially, the cookie helps the website know that you are a specific user and take you back to the website as you left it. It is a sort of "save" function that requires no action on the part of the user. For example, cookies save certain things you do on websites so you don't have to do it every time you visit the same website. Think of it as a week long hotel visit. Instead of having to check in every single time you return to the hotel, the front desk gives you a key that takes you straight to your room.

Benefits of Internet Cookies

Cookies help us in many ways that we take for granted. See below for a list of examples:

  • Online shopping carts - Cookies help websites keep items in your shopping cart even after you close your browser.
  • Preferences - Websites use cookies to personalize your experience based on your past preferences.
  • Log in information - Cookies allow websites to save your username and password. This way you don't have to manually enter that information every time you log in.

Are There Any Drawbacks?

While cookies mostly just make your time on the Internet more efficient and enjoyable, there are some privacy concerns that come with them. As with most things, increased convenience usually means less privacy. Cookies do improve your experience on the Internet, but they do so by tracking your habits online.

One way that this information is used is to send you targeted ads. Some companies sell cookies to advertisers. With your cookies, an advertiser can gain insights into what kinds of ads you'll be most likely to click.

Disallowing Internet Cookies

If this information makes you uncomfortable, many browsers offer the option to disallow cookies. This may make your browsing experiences less efficient, but you'll have some added anonymity. Additionally, you can use incognito or privacy mode which will automatically delete cookies once your browsing session is over.

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