A guide to internet cookies, the small files that store information about your online activity

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The internet as we know it today would be impossible without cookies — small data files that store information about your online activity. These files are used by websites to remember you, keep you logged in between sessions, know your preferences, and more. 

You can think of cookies like a dry-cleaning receipt. When you drop off your clothing, you get a slip of paper that describes how many items you’re leaving behind and how they should be cleaned. When you come back days later, that receipt is the key to getting your things back the way you intended. 

Nearly every website stories cookies of some sort, and the amount that they store is only going up. Here’s everything you need to know about “HTTP cookies,” or simply “cookies.”

The different types of cookies

Cookies fall into two broad categories: session cookies and persistent cookies. Here’s the difference between them.

Session cookies

These are temporary cookies that reside in your computer’s temporary memory — they are never stored on your computer’s hard drive. 

They’re only used to help your web browser navigate around a website and remember the previous pages you’ve visited. 

Persistent cookies

These are cookies that are stored long-term on your computer’s hard drive. Some are there essentially forever; others are set to expire after a set period of time. 

Regardless, persistent cookies are responsible for important details like remembering your login credentials so you stay logged in between visits, and personalization details about how you’ve configured specific sites. 

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Some persistent cookies are known as third-party cookies. These cookies track your online activities across the internet, like the pages you’ve visited and products you’ve looked at. Generally, it’s these persistent third-party cookies that are responsible for compromising your privacy. 

Why do we have cookies?

The term “cookie” sometimes obfuscates what it really is — a simple text file stored on your computer to make browsing the internet easier. 

As a general rule, cookies are saved onto your computer while you’re visiting a website and stored locally on your computer. When the website needs a reminder of who you are — like when you’re trying to load your shopping cart, for instance — it reads the cookies on your computer. 

This way, the website doesn’t need to track and manage a huge number of users; all that data is stored locally on each user’s computer. This makes browsing a site faster and easier for all parties involved.

Why websites use cookies, explained

There are a variety of reasons why websites use. Some of it is to benefit the site or the browser, but it can help visitors, too. 

Session management: Cookies store information about your website visits, like the order of pages you’ve visited. This, for example, helps a browser know where to go if you click the back button.

Personalization: Site personalization is an important use for cookies — this tells a website about your login credentials so you don’t have to log in every time you visit. It also tracks how you’ve configured and personalized a site. For example, what language you want the site …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Tech

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