What is an Internet Cookie?

Have you heard about “internet cookies”? Do you know what they are and what they do? You can learn more about what internet cookies are by reading this article.

Website cookies are small files, basically pieces of information that are stored in a user’s computer. They are stored as text strings in the browser and are sent by web servers. The next time the page is referenced, the browser returns these cookies to the server. This enables the server to deliver a page that is tailored to a particular user.

What Cookies Do

Cookies are most commonly used as storage for user IDs. To illustrate, a cookie may be designed to contain the string ID=12345678. This technique is used by Amazon.com and many other sites. In Amazon, an ID is assigned to you when you order a book and fill out a form with your name and address. The information that you give, together with an ID that is given by Amazon, is stored on their server and is sent to your browser as a cookie. Your computer’s browser then stores the ID on your hard disk and is sent back to the server the next time you go to Amazon.com. Through the cookie, the server will then identify you using your ID and then customizes the web page that will be displayed to you. The web page might say “Welcome back, John Doe!” or something of that nature.

Are Internet Cookies Harmful?

Cookies are simply text strings and do not contain anything more than that. Every computer’s directory has a folder where all the cookies are stored. Since they are text files, you can easily open them and actually see the strings that are saved. These are usually found in the directory c:\windows\cookies folder in your computer.

Contrary to common thinking, cookies are not harmful to your computer. Most people think that cookies contain viruses. This is not true as they are simply text strings that actually help make your browsing easier and more convenient by allowing servers to recall customized information that you have set before.

It is also a concern for some people that their files are being accessed through the cookies that are stored in their hard drives. Cookies are recalled by servers the same way they were sent. Therefore, if the cookie contains an ID string and is stored in your hard drive, it still only contains the ID string when it is sent back to the web server – nothing more, nothing less. Cookies are not modified or manipulated in any way.