I hear a lot about cookies on my computer. I’m assuming they aren’t the kind like Grandma makes, and I have no idea what they do. How do I get them on my computer in the first place?
C is for Cookie.
Dear Cookie Monster,
Cookies are small files that websites put on your computer hard drive when you first visit the site. It is a computer version of your ID in the way that it tells the website who you are.
A cookie notifies the website that you have returned, and of any preferences you have set for the site. If you have not told the website of any preferences or left any personal information with the site, the website will only know that someone with your cookie has returned to the website.
How can this be helpful? Cookies can save your settings on a website if you want it viewed a certain way. For example, if you go to a sports site and specify that you want to ignore all the news regarding the “sport” of darts, when you return to the site a cookie will remember this and not show you the results of the international darts tournament.
Another example is in online shopping when you return to a website and your items are still stored in your cart. Imagine searching hours online for the perfect set of Star Wars action figures. You are about to pay, when your Mom wants to print off the new meatloaf recipe that was sent to her by email. When logging out of her email, she accidentally closes all the browsers. Cookies will remember that you had these certain settings and that you had wanted those items in your cart, otherwise you would have to scour the site again, looking for the exact same items you just spent hours trying to find.
An HTTP cookie can be used to track where you travel over a particular site, but this is done other ways as well. This tracking information is, for the most part, used by people such as web developers to find where their website visitors find is most interesting or helpful to their visitors, and where they can improve their traffic. This information can also be used for the web developer to figure out what kinds of ads and information you might want to see. If you are on a sports website, cookies tell the website that you might want to view ads for sports jerseys or autographed memorabilia, and not show you ads for something such as greenhouse gardening