What Are Cookies Used For?

Websites use HTTP cookies to streamline your web experiences. Without cookies, you’d have to login again after you leave a site or rebuild your shopping cart if you accidentally close the page. Making cookies an important a part of the internet experience.

Based on this, you’ll want to understand why they’re worth keeping — and when they’re not.

Here’s how cookie are intended to be used:

  1. Session management. For example, cookies let websites recognize users and recall their individual login information and preferences, such as sports news versus politics.
  2. Personalization. Customized advertising is the main way cookies are used to personalize your sessions. You may view certain items or parts of a site, and cookies use this data to help build targeted ads that you might enjoy.
  3. Tracking. Shopping sites use cookies to track items users previously viewed, allowing the sites to suggest other goods they might like and keep items in shopping carts while they continue shopping.

While this is mostly for your benefit, web developers get a lot out of this set-up as well.

Cookies are stored on your device locally to free up storage space on a website’s servers. In turn, websites can personalize while saving money on server maintenance and storage costs.

What are the different types of HTTP Cookies?

With a few variations, cookies in the cyber world come in two types: session and persistent.

Session cookies are used only while navigating a website. They are stored in random access memory and are never written to the hard drive.

When the session ends, session cookies are automatically deleted. They also help the “back” button or third-party anonymizer plugins work. These plugins are designed for specific browsers to work and help maintain user privacy.

Persistent cookies remain on a computer indefinitely, although many include an expiration date and are automatically removed when that date is reached.

Persistent cookies are used for two primary purposes:

  1. Authentication. These cookies track whether a user is logged in and under what name. They also streamline login information, so users don’t have to remember site passwords.
  2. Tracking. These cookies track multiple visits to the same site over time. Some online merchants, for example, use cookies to track visits from particular users, including the pages and products viewed. The information they gain allows them to suggest other items that might interest visitors. Gradually, a profile is built based on a user’s browsing history on that site.

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