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Browser Cookies, Internet Cookies, HTTP Cookies, Computer Cookies… Cookies have many names. But WHAT THE HECK are they?! Well, sit tight and hold onto your knickers because in this video I answer the question, “What Are Cookies?” And explain How They Work!
First off, a cookie is a small piece of data from a specific website, that is stored on a user’s computer while their browsing the web.
And they can have several different functions, such as:
1. Keeping track of that user’s browsing data in order to serve up targeted information such as ads for goods, or services.
This is why when you’re browsing Amazon for a Halloween costume for your dog, you will then see ads on Facebook later for more dog costumes.
2. Remembering your login details for a specific website.
3. Cookies can also allow website owners to track exactly how many unique visitors they’re getting to their website. Because each cookie has its own unique ID.
So if the a user visits the same website 2 or 3 times in a day, the cookie allows us to count this as one unique viewer. So website owners can collect more accurate data about their website traffic.
Where did the cookie come from? And why?
The first cookie was invented in 1994 by a 24yr old programmer for NetScape Communications named Lou Montulli.
He was creating an online store for a company that said their servers were getting too full from storing each individual user’s shopping cart data as they were browsing the store. So he thought back to an old computing token called the “magic cookie” which was used to identify when someone logged into a system by passing a small bit of information between server and their computer. Lou then recreated this concept for the web and thus the modern day cookie was born!
So how does a cookie work?
Well when you visit a website for the first time, for this example let’s say it’s an online store, the website will put a cookie on your computer’s hard drive, that has a unique identification code.
The site then uses this ID to keep track of your “session”.
The reason it does this is so it can keep track of things like which items you’ve saved to your shopping cart, or which items you’ve looked already at so it can suggest similar items, or even save coupon codes for you that can be used even if you close out of the website and come back to it later that day.
There’s another type of cookie called a third party cookie. Which I’ll explain with an example.
Let’s say you’re browsing a website that has a button to like or share on Facebook embedded into it. Well this button has to talk to Facebook.com which now means that facebook can now send their own cookies through this website to see some of your activity, and use it to target ads specific for you next you’re scrolling down your Facebook news feed.
But not all cookies are privacy breaching parasites and generally they can help you have a much more enjoyable browsing experience and save you lots of time and headache on the web.
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