What is an internet cookie and what does it exactly do?

What is an internet cookie? When someone mentions cookies, the first thing that could pop up in someone’s head is chocolate flavored confectionaries. Well these are quite different and not edible at all. As you browse the internet or use a web application, you’ll see the message “Accept cookies” or “Manage settings”. Usually you can’t continue with whatever you were doing until you choose one of the options.

This will most likely leave you with questions like what is an internet cookie? what does it do? We are here to answer these questions and explain in detail.

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Also read: Climate Innovation Labs support start-ups in Africa addressing climate change.

What is an internet cookie?

A computer cookie more formally known as an HTTP cookie can also be known as a web cookie, an Internet cookie or a browser cookie. This refers to a packet of data like username and password that identifies your computer as you use a computer network.

When you visit a website, it sends the cookie to your computer. Your computer stores it in a file located inside your web browser.

What does an internet cookie do?

Well what these cookies do is really simple. Their job is to help a website or application keep a record of your visits and activity. This makes your browsing experience quite easy. For example, many online retailers use cookies to keep track of the items that users might scroll through or buy. The next time you log in to the online shop, you’ll find a suggestion of goods similar to the ones you last bought.

Another way cookies work is through session management. Cookies let websites recognize users through their login information and preferences. If every time you visit a news site you scroll through the politics section, you’re most likely going to get suggestions about politics more.

Cookies also work to do personalised advertising. Just like we stated earlier, if there are parts of a site or a web application that you usually visit you’ll receive targeted ads basing on what content you usually view.

A website might also use cookies to keep a record of your most recent visit or to record your login information. Many people find this useful so that they can store passwords on frequently used sites. This way you don’t have to remember the password every time you log in in case you are somewhat forgetful.

Different types of cookies keep track of different activities. Session cookies are used only when a person is actively navigating a website; once you leave the site, the session cookie disappears. Tracking cookies may be used to create long-term records of multiple visits to the same site. Authentication cookies track whether a user is logged in, and if so, under what name.

However, one disadvantage that comes with these cookies is they can be used by malicious people to observe your online activity. Since we’ve been able to answer “What is an internet cookie?”, the next post will explain how harmful some of these cookies can be and how you can resolve the problem.

READ: Easy ways on how to improve internet speed while using VPNs.

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