Fancy an HTTP Cookie?
In the early days of the Internet in the 1990s, there were a lot of articles about Cookies and how they were a worry as they invaded people’s privacy and were some type of a spying mechanism used by various websites to track users on the Internet. In the early days of the web many people also worried about their information being kept online by various organisations. To be honest the amount of information online for the average user is now so vast e.g. bank details, shopping accounts, email accounts etc. that cookies are probably of small concern.
Over the past few years there seem to have been much less mention of them, partly I suspect because with the advent of social networking a lot of privacy seems to have been blown apart. With about 900 million people on Facebook, many telling the world about their everyday antics, the worries about cookies seem to have totally faded away.
Cookies are simply “text files” which contain just two pieces of information which a website name and a unique user ID (a user ID is the same as a username. It’s just a sequence of characters and numbers that is used when you log into a computer or onto the Internet and is used for identification)
So Cookies work by being downloaded onto your Personal Computer (PC) the first time you visit a website. Then the next time you visit that website your PC just checks to see if it has a Cookie that is relevant to that site and send the information contained in the Cookie back to the website. All this takes milliseconds. The website then “checks” that you have been on it before by the use of the Cookie check and with this then varies the content which is presented to you on the website according to what you have used the previous time or even multiple times.
Some Cookies are much more sophisticated for example they can record how long you stay on certain pages and what you click on in those pages and even your preferences for page layouts, and which banner adverts you prefer so that different adverts can be shown to you. The benefits of Cookies are many; they really make your interaction with websites much easier so for example, they remember details when you are shopping online making this experience much easier. In fact, sites like Amazon with their 1click booking (this stores your credit card information and address safely) make ordering that new book you have just read about in a press review a real joy; it’s so easy!
You can control your Cookies, as on the majority of sites in the terms and conditions, you will read that by using the website you are agreeing to download their sites cookies. But you can also use your PC to block Cookies and also to delete all Cookies. Having had to do this a few times the issue is then that the websites domain names do not appear immediately you start typing them in and the whole experience of browsing on the web becomes a lot more “clunky” which is the exact opposite of what most of us what our online experience to be!
Our view is that Cookies are a necessity for the average online user nowadays and are another tool that makes using the Internet an easy and more slick experience.
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