What do Internet Cookies Do?

Have you ever wondered what internet cookies are really used for and if they are really as harmful as they are said to be? Read on to find out the answers to your cookie questions.

Research will show that one of the more popular web browsers (Netscape) introduced Internet cookies to the browsing process. The term (cookie) was a permanent fixture in computer science and refers to a data that an intermediary holds. In more technical parlance, cookies on computer are small slices of information in text layout and downloaded to the PC when you visit numerous sites. A cookie can originate from two main sources. These are the sites and banners or web page graphics of advertisers.

Several cookies can be downloaded from various sources when you visit just a single site. Cookies have unique identification numbers, domain that the cookie is applicable, and date of expiration. It can also contain tracking information like login name and pages that have been visited. This may be read using regular text editor like Notepad although the contents may not really make sense. However, cookie viewers can provide a bit of information regarding the meaning of said content. These applications can also be used to erase selected cookies.

Functions of Cookies

The cookie is needed to provide diligence because Internet browsing does not ensure any record of visitors going in and out of a website. Information requested by your browser from a site is downloaded to your PC but the connection is dropped afterwards. In case you go back to the site, it has no record of your visit. The cookie is placed in the computer to remind the site and guarantee continuity. Additional research shows that websites will opt to use this data for the following reasons:

  • It has the capacity to customize information.
  • Assist in online selling and provision of services.
  • Gather demographic information.
  • It offers programmers a fast and efficient way to keep content fresh and pertinent to the needs of users.
  • Help in backend interface and enhance site utility by storing personal data that the user shared with the website safely.

Cookie Storage

Every form of Internet browser appoints a specific place for the storage of cookies. For instance, Internet Explorer maintains a folder where cookies are stored as separate text files. On the other hand, Windows XP keeps several folders for every user. These are Documents and Settings\Username\Cookies. This is part of the complicated cache system. The pointers to Internet Explorer cookies are stored in Temporary Internet Files\. The best way to find the location of cookies is to look for the Search or Find folder. While some computer cookies are functional, these have been employed by certain advertisers as tracking mechanisms. One relatively risk-free application is to turn around banner advertising while you go from one web page to the other so you will not see the same advertisement repeatedly. Some of these have been invasive and thus lead to privacy problems. Nevertheless, these are still ordinary text files which are not executable applications and will not cause harm to your PC. Majority of users simply ignore cookies on computer and go on with their daily browsing and use of the computer.