Cookies

14th August 2007 / Day 226

Picture Credit: Flickr – Mrs Magic

When you think of cookies, you probably think of sugar, dough, and the taste or smell of freshly baked cookies.

However, since this is a technology blog, we’re not going to be talking about the kind of cookies that are in the picture above, but rather pieces of information that are stored on your computer when you visit a website. These kinds of cookies may also be known as web cookies, browser cookies, or HTTP cookies.

Cookies have many different uses, such as for storing your log-in credentials for a website, such as FaceBook, or Yahoo! Mail, when you choose the “Keep me logged in” or “Remember me” option. Some other uses for cookies may be recording and storing your preferences for a website, remembering what items are in a shopping cart, or storing the identifier when you’re connected to a connection that is server-based.

While cookies may seem complicated, they’re really only a text file that contains the data that is being stored. Cookies can also be stored on your computer for varying amounts of time, from only a few minutes to an indefinite period of time.

When you visit a website that wants to store a cookie on your computer, it is sent to your computer by a server, as an HTTP header. Then, when the server wants to access the information contained in the cookie, it is sent back to the sever.

However, not all cookies are used for “good” purposes. There are some cookies, such as tracking-cookies, which can be used track which websites a user may be visiting, which may potentially violate the user’s privacy. Tracking cookies can be removed quite easily, though, by clearing your browser’s cookies or by running a program, such as CCleaner, by Piriform.

If you would like to clear your browser’s cookies and you are using Internet Explorer, you can do so by going to “Tools” and then to “Internet Options”. From there, you should click on the “General” tab and then select “Cookies” and whatever else you’d like to erase from the list. Then, you should select “Ok.”

If you use Mozilla FireFox, you can clear your cookies by going to “Tools” and then to “Clear recent history…”. From there, you should be able to choose what you would like to clear from your browser, including cookies, by clicking on the arrow next to “Details”, selecting what you would like to clear or delete, as well as selecting the time frame you’d like to clear things from. Then, you should simply click on “Clear Now”, which should clear or delete whatever it was that you chose to clear.

For for information about cookies, I would suggest that you check out Wikipedia’s article on HTTP cookies.

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