As you must be aware, most websites store cookies in your browser cache. Hence, it is important that you understand what cookies are and why they are used on the internet?
What Are Cookies on the Internet?
Cookies that we come across on the internet are small text files containing instructions for the web browser on your computer, phone or tablet to record/transmit/verify user data, as requested by the issuer.
Unlike regular files, the file format of a cookie is designed to survive browser restarts and retain its data, even after the browser is closed.
The Basic Structure of a Browser Cookie
In general, most web browsers provide support for cookies of up to 4KB size and they basically have the following structure.
Name & Content: The name of cookie and the information held in the cookie file.
Domain & Path: The domain name of the website that is using the cookie and the web page where the cookie is used. If the path is only indicated as “/” it means that the cookie is being used across the whole website.
Created & Expires: The date/time when the cookie was created on the user’s web browser and the date/time when the cookie expires and will be deleted by the browser.
Accessible to script: Information about whether or not the cookie can be accessed through other ways than HTML.
Send for: The level of security the connection needs to have in order to use the cookie.
When Were Cookies Used for the First Time?
It was in July 1994 that Lou Montulli and John Giannandrea at Netscape Communications were entrusted with the task of developing an e-commerce application that could keep shopping cart information of users, without overloading the web server.
As you must have guessed by now, the most efficient way to store shopping cart information of individual users without overloading the server would be to store this information right on the device of users.
One year later, Microsoft started providing support for cookies in its popular Internet Explorer browser. Since then, support for cookies has become a standard feature in all web browsers.
What Types of Cookies Are Used by Websites?
Currently, various types of cookies are being used on the internet and they can be generally classified into the following types.
These are temporary cookies designed to remain active only during your browsing session.
Session cookies should be automatically removed from the cache as soon as your browsing session ends and the browser is closed.
Session cookies are generally used in e-commerce shopping carts and remain active in the browser cache until the browsing session or for a short period of time.
As the name suggests, these cookies are designed to remain active in the web browser cache for a longer period of time.
The expiration date of a persistent cookie is defined by the issuer, which means that the cookie will remain stored in cache, even after the browser is closed.
Persistent cookies are designed to remain stored in the browser cache and return or transmit data to the issuer, every time you visit the issuers website or a service (Ads) supported by the website.
This practically means that persistent cookies can track your browsing activity, both on the issuers website and also on other sites supported/linked by the issuers website.
Since, persistent cookies are designed to remain active in the browser cache for a longer period of time, they can be greater privacy/security risk compared to session cookies.
First party cookies are designed to record/transmit information to the particular website that you are visiting.
In general, First-Party cookies can be considers as being essential for proper functioning of a website and designed to facilitate shopping, payment and services and facilities offered by the website.
Hence, disabling First Part Cookies can have an adverse impact on your interaction/use experience and may even prevent the website from offering you its products and services.
As the name suggests, Third-Party cookies are created by other entities and not by the website that you are currently visiting.
In general, third-party cookies are used by advertisers and get triggered when you view or click advertisements appearing on a website.
In this particular case, the purpose of a Third-party cookie is to credit the website for your interaction with Ads appearing on the website.
Reason for Using Cookies in Web Browsers?
As mentioned above, the reason for using cookies in the web browser is to allow websites to record and store information relevant to your browsing activity.
Such information helps the websites to load faster during your subsequent visits and load your preferred settings for that particular website.
Hence, most web browsers provide the option to clear cookies and disable cookies for any website that you do not trust.