Browser Cookies, Internet Cookies, HTTP Cookies, Computer Cookies... Cookies have many names.
WHAT THE HECK are they?
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. The first cookie was invented in 1994 by a 24yr old programmer for Netscape, named Lou Montulli. He was trying to solve a pressing problem on the early web: Websites had lousy memories. Every time a user loaded a new page, a website would treat them like a stranger it had never seen before. That made it impossible to build basic web features we take for granted today, like the shopping carts that follow us from page to page across e-commerce sites.
A simpler solution might have been to just give every user a unique, permanent ID number that their browser would reveal to every website they visited. But Montulli and the Netscape team rejected that option for fear that it would allow third parties to track people’s browsing activity. Instead, they settled on the cookie—a small text file passed back and forth between a person’s computer and a single website—as a way to help websites remember visitors without allowing people to be tracked. Montulli 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 the server and their computer. Lou then recreated this concept for the web and thus the modern-day cookie was born!
Within two years, advertisers learned ways to essentially hack cookies to do exactly what Montulli had tried to avoid: follow people around the internet.
And they can have several different functions, such as:
- 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 on Google for a new PJ, you will then see ads on Facebook later for more PJ ads.
- Remembering your login details for a specific website. B
- 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 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.
- First-party Cookies.
- Third-party Cookies.
- Session Cookies.
- Persistent Cookies.
- Secure Cookies.