Hackernoon logoWhat Are Cookies and How Do Websites Use Them? by@prakshal

What Are Cookies and How Do Websites Use Them?

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@prakshalprakshall

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What are cookies?

Cookies are simply the text files created by the developers of a particular website, which are stored in the user’s computer for storing the data for further recognition and preferences set by the user. They are also known as an HTTP cookie, web cookie, Internet cookie, browser cookie, or only a cookie.

They are widely used on almost every website you visit. Cookies can store the data, such as the language preferences set by users on their first visit, or the time when you last visited the website. Data could also include the links that you’ve clicked during the session. The type of data saved to a cookie is set lawfully by the developers of that website.

Just like if you visit a website and log into your account, the cookie saves the information, and when you come back after some days later, it redirects you to the account you previously logged into.

There are several types of cookies for distinct tasks

  1. Session cookie - These are the cookies used and saved just during the session by the user. After the session, the cookies get deleted automatically by the browser.
  2. Permanent cookies - They are the cookies stored in the user’s device for a long time. They are used to remember information like settings, log-in, or sign-up credentials. Which therefore makes the user experience faster.
  3. Zombie cookie - Cookies regenerated automatically even after deletion by the user are known as zombie cookies. These are mainly used for counting the visitors in terms of unique or no-unique.
  4. Flash cookie - They are used mainly for advertisements and video purposes and accessed by Adobe Flash.
  5. Third-party cookies - They are used by different services irrespective of the website you visit. They use the cookie for tracking the details of visitors to a particular website. These are used in chatbots, newsletters, and for other purposes as well.

How Do Websites Use Cookies?

For websites, cookies are majorly essential to keep the user experience flawless every time.

The cookies in the browser or your device’s hardware store the data in the 'field-value' pairs; for example, yourName = “Prakshal”. It stores different values in different fields. This tells cookies what data is to be sent for a particular field. 

When you visit a website, your credentials’ data in the form of cookies are being sent to the browser for storing and future purposes.

When you re-visit the website, your web browser returns that data to the particular website in the form of a cookie. The website then uses the cookie data so that the changes you’ve made last time could easily be retrieved. This literally makes the user experience polished.

The Power Of Using Cookies

For developers:

  1. They reduce the load on the server by keeping the data in the user’s local storage.
  2. You know the preferences of the user, such as the language, UI theme, or currency.
  3. Since the data is stored in the user’s hard drive, the data loss due to server failure is minimal.

For the user:

  1. The ‘related searches’ area, which shows you the topics related to what you’ve searched previously, takes the help of cookies.
  2. The items added to the cart are remembered with the help of cookies.
  3. You don’t have to log in to the same website again and again.
  4. During submitting forms, the cookies remember the data entered previously, such as the name, contact number, e-mail, etc. Which seriously saves a lot of time.

There is a wide usage of cookies for making one’s experience better.

The Downside Of Cookies

For developers:

  1. The size of a cookie cannot exceed more than 4096 bytes(4KBs). So only a fixed amount of data can be stored there.
  2. Users can delete the cookies at any time. The developers have to bother about such cases.
  3. Only data with plain text is allowed in the cookies. So complex fields cannot be merged.
  4. For a single website, the maximum amount of cookies that can be deployed is 20 (for most browsers). Not more than that.

For the user:

  1. The cookie takes the local storage of the desktop. So, if you surf a lot on the internet without removing the past cookies, the cookies can take up some space. Resulting in slowing down the desktop.
  2. Since the transfer of cookies takes place a lot of time between the hard drive and the website’s server. The chances of your internet activities and history becoming available to the public increases.
  3. Most websites collect information with cookies in a lawful manner. But some of them take without any valid reasons. Which further sometimes used to sell the information to some third-party organizations, who may misuse the information provided. 

How To View or Delete Cookies

To view the saved cookies in your browser: 

  1. First, go to the Settings of your browser.
  2. You’ll get the section for Privacy and Security.
  3. Under that section, go to Cookies and other site data.
  4. After that, for viewing the cookies and the data, just click the All cookies and site data button.
  5. On that page, you’ll see all the cookies stored on your hard drive. 

To delete the saved cookies in your browser: 

  1. On the same page, under "All cookies and site data" you’ll have a button that says remove all at the top. Just tap that for deleting all the cookies.
  2. The second method is that while deleting the browsing data, just check the box saying cookies and other site data and then clear it.

Just in case you don’t have much time to delete the cookies, at least just look at the third-party cookies and alter them. Also, keep your cache clear and be careful while visiting websites that are not secure. Only assume the worst-case scenario every time. 

If you were starving and clicked this for your craving, a big sorry from my side. This was not that cookie :)

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