What are computer cookies
Cookies are something that every single internet user will have on their computer at some point and no I don’t mean those lovely chocolate biscuits getting dropped on your keyboard.
Cookies take the strain away from web servers by storing tiny bits of information on the visitor’s computer. While this is a very small amount of data for an individual computer if there were no cookies the data would have to be stored on the server. As you can imagine if the web server is suddenly having to store data for 1 million visitors a day this becomes problematic and slow.
Cookies are also used for website tracking which is currently a hot topic with the change to cookie laws in the EU. Tracking cookies are used to show the website owners the number of visitors, time spent on pages and targeted marketing that show ads based on your interests and browsing history.
Cookies are integral part of our web browsing experience and are used for many purposes such as:
- Tailoring pages to a user
- Saving setting and preferences
- Transferring information from one site to another
- Remembering login details
- Shopping carts
- and much more
So what do these cookies look like
Computer cookies are no more than very small files on your computer that store data in a key data pairing. For example the key could be name and the data would be computerlearnhow.com in our case. This data is retrieved on the web server and used to set certain parameters or settings to provide you with a personalised experience.
A common misconception is that cookies are some sort of program that is installed on your computer they are not. The cookies are nothing more than text files that can be opened with something like notepad if you are curious as to their contents. They take up very little space on modern day computers but that’s not to say that it is not a good idea to clear your computer cookies and browsing history every once in a while.
Who has access to these cookies are they safe?
Well this is the big debating point. A lot of people don’t like the fact that businesses are storing data about them and are able to track their browsing habits using cookies. Although the information does not tend to be personal or risky some people just don’t like the idea that someone has their information.
If you are the paranoid type you may not like the idea of your browsing habits been tracked and that is understandable especially in today’s targeted marketing world.
Cookies control how sites are personalised just for each visitor among other things and have a range of benefits to make your browsing experience a better experience. Yes it may be a trade-off and it depends on which side of the line you want to be.
But I don’t want cookies on my computer
If you don’t want cookies storing data then you are perfectly within your rights not to share that data and many don’t. Most of the modern web browsers allow you to disable cookies in their preferences.
Do cookies expire?
When a cookie is created it is usually created with a time of expiry. If a cookie is not set with an expiry time the cookie is usually destroyed when the active window is closed. A good example of sites that don’t set cookies to be destroyed on close are sites like Amazon. If you add something to your cart and then close the window and reopen you will most likely find that the items are still in your cart.