Web Cookies

What Are Web Cookies and What Are They Used For?

If you’ve been on the internet, you have probably come across the term cookies before. And not baked cookies my dear foodies, I’m talking about website cookies.

In this article, we will take a look at what exactly these cookies are, why websites use them, and finally take a look at their pros and cons.

What are cookies?

Cookies are small files created and stored on your hard drive by the website’s web server when contacted by your browser.

What information do cookies contain?

The information on cookies, apart from the bare minimum (the website name and a user ID) includes:

  • The amount of time a user spends on a website.
  • The options or preferences they choose.
  • A record of previous web pages the user has visited.
  • Items in a shopping basket.
  • The links clicked on while using the website.

Why use cookies?

With the definition out of the way, this is bound to be the next question: What are the cookies used for? Are they beneficial to myself or the web server?

The simple answer is that cookies identify visitors to the webpage and possibly prepare customized web pages for them or to save site login details for them.

That prevents you from having to resubmit your details every time you navigate away and come back.

Pros

  • Improved online shopping experience– most e-commerce websites allow users to put items in a cart, leave the page and return to resume shopping with all the items intact.
  • Convenient form resubmission– Cookies can remember information submitted on a form, therefore, saving users valuable time.
  • With cookies, you can store language and currency preference.
  • Cookies are user-friendly. The user has the freedom to choose what they want to do with the cookies including clearing all history or even manually deleting the text files on their hard drives.
  • With the data collected, the cookies are able to make relevant recommendations for you.
  • Cookies can be configured based on the user’s preference. They can be configured to expire once the user leaves the site or after a specified duration.
  • Cookies allow web servers to know if a user is logged in. Not allowing cookies therefore will hinder the website from remembering that you’re logged in.

Cons

  • Users’ privacy is jeopardized– Most browsers are set to accept cookies by default. These cookies are stored ‘invisibly’ on your machine every time you browse the internet. Your IP address and browsing history become public knowledge.
  • From the definition, cookies are small files stored on your device. As you visit more sites, these files can take up quite some bit of storage.
  • Websites may sell the information collected from cookies to a third party who may use it to hack into social networks or other online accounts.

Conclusion

As seen above, cookies have immense benefits. However, the issue of data privacy is still a big topic within the current security landscape.

You don’t have to accept all cookies. However, some companies won’t let you use their website if you don’t accept their cookies.

Now do not be alarmed. This is simply because some websites will not work as intended without cookies.

Cookies give you a more customized experience with more content tailored to you.

It is therefore usually worth it to accept them unless you are particularly fearful when it comes to your privacy.

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