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The Basics of Cookies

posted on Tuesday 11th February, 2020


The term gets thrown around a lot on the internet, and we’ve all heard of people talking about them. More often than not, they are talked about in a negative way. But what exactly are cookies?

A lot of websites, from online magazines to investment opportunity websites use cookies to enhance user experience.

What is a cookie?

One thing a cookie isn’t, contrary to popular belief, is a malicious program. A cookie is nothing to be afraid of.

They are merely just once or more pieces of information that are stored as text strings on your computer. You could even open them in the most basic of text files if you wanted.

Typically, cookies contain two pieces of information: a site name and your unique user ID.

What do cookies do?

The short answer to this questions is that cookies, essentially, don’t do anything at all. The main purpose of a cookie is in fact to identify users, save information and even prepare customised web pages.

When you visit a web page that uses cookies, it sends your browser said cookie to store. The next time you visit that particular web page, the cookie is checked by the web page and the information is sent back to the site.

But what is the point of all this?

It’s so the website knows you have been there before, and can tailor content, adverts and the like to you. Ultimately, it can improve your user experience. It would be annoying if a website treated you as a first time user each time and didn’t remember that you’d previously visited, right?

What are the different types of cookie?

Session

Session cookies are also known as temporary cookies. These particular cookies help websites recognise the user and the information that is provided when navigating through the website.

These cookies only hold information whilst the user is on the website. As soon as the browser is closed, the cookies are deleted.

Permanent

Permanent cookies can also be known as persistent cookies. As the name suggests, these are more permanent than the session cookies.

These cookies continue to hold information even when the web browser has been closed. The most common example of this being used is when a website remembers your login details and passwords.

Third Party

Third party cookies are installed by, you guessed it, third parties. The aim of this is to collect information from users to look into their behaviours.

Typically, advertisers use this to make sure that they are marketing their products and services to the correct audience.

Flash

Flash cookies can also be known as super cookies. These are designed to be stored on the computer permanently.

Even after all cookies have been deleted from the web browser, these will remain on the device of the user.

Zombie

Zombie cookies are a type of flash cookie that are automatically re-created after they have been deleted.

Unsurprisingly, this means that they are hard to detect and even manage. Because of this, they are used in online games to prevent cheating. Unfortunately, for this reason, they can also be used to install malicious software onto a device.

 

Now that you know the basics of the internet cookie, your mind can be more at ease when browsing the web.

The majority of the time, cookies are harmless and are just there to improve your user experience.

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