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HTTP Cookies Explained

HTTP Cookies Explained are small pieces of information which are stored on a computer. Much against what has been said about them in the past, web browser cookies are not programs or applications and they cannot be used to spy on people. Websites cannot access other website cookies on your computer and, in fact, they do not even have direct access to their own cookies.



Information travels back and forth between the web server and your web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.). This information is comprised of a series of requests and responses concerning loading websites, page elements, and so on. If websites want to track the number of visitors they have, repeat and first-time visitors, they will give each visitor an identification number, send a cookie to their web browser.


The browser puts the cookie, which is just a simple text file, into a folder on their computer. The next time the visitor arrives at the website, the site asks the browser if there are any cookies available, in other words, has the visitor been there before. It is then that each individual browser looks at the cookie folder and identifies any cookies associated with that site.

As you can see, websites do not have direct access to the cookies on your computer and must ask for them. Because of this, they cannot access other cookies from other sites, but only their own. In addition to that, since cookie files are only simple text files, they do not have any computing ability and they cannot be used to spy on your computer or your activity outside of that website.

Cookies are used to track visitor movement throughout each website. For instance, if you have a shopping cart open and have placed items in it, cookies allow you to close one tab of your browser, use another tab to continue searching the site, add another item to your cart, and yet all of the data concerning the contents of your shopping cart is saved and available for you when you are ready to check out. Without cookies, internet shopping experiences would be very unpleasant and tedious.

Cookies also allow websites to track your movement through the site with regard to your interest levels. Site moderators can monitor whether people ignore or find an article of the site uninteresting, and which areas of the site are the most interesting to visitors. In this manner, content developers and website designers can tweak and alter the site to be more interesting and better fit the needs of the public.


Forget all of the myths and ridiculous propaganda you have heard about internet cookies. Unless you download viruses onto your computer, you cannot attract spyware simply by visiting a site. Keep your eyes open and be aware of what sites you visit, though, because advertisements can be downloaded, and you might accidentally receive a virus in this manner.



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