What is a Cookie?
A cookie is a small text file that stores small pieces of information. They’re created by the websites you visit, their affiliates, or advertisers and are stored on your computer.
The information stored in a cookie is usually some tracking information to help the website perform various tasks, such as managing a session ID when you sign in. Cookies are limited to 4kb in size.
What are Cookies for?
When you visit a website, it sends information to your computer to keep track of your movement on the site, your visits, links you clicked, and any activities you did there. These cookies are then stored in your web browser and are later accessed if you revisit the website.
Is there only one type of Cookie?
There are three types of cookies; each has a specific purpose and usually tracks other activities.
Session cookies, also known as first-party or temporary cookies, are created for a single session and vanish once you close the browser.
Government websites and financial institutions typically use these session cookies. They keep track of your browsing session while you actively navigate the site. Once you close the browser, the cookies will automatically expire.
Cookies that don’t expire after you close the browser or even shut down the computer are called permanent cookies, also known as tracking or persistent cookies.
They have a specific expiration date set by the website and remain valid until that date.
Permanent cookies are usually meant to help users keep track of their previous logins so that they don’t need to enter usernames and passwords every time they visit a website.
Though the “keep me logged in” or “remember me” feature on websites is handy and makes things more accessible, it’s not exactly safe in terms of security. It can be risky if people with malicious intentions gain access to your computer.
Third-party cookies are typically used for marketing (which also means deeper tracking of you). For example, these are the cookies embedded by advertisements and banners shown on a website.
These third parties store cookies on your computer to collect as much information about you as possible to display relevant ads. That may include your search queries, behaviors, interests, and much more.
That’s why when you visit a website, you may see a banner or advertisement of a product you have previously looked at elsewhere. By tracking your movements with the help of cookies, advertisers can get very specific when it comes to what they show you.
Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are some of the most common websites using third-party cookies.
Why Would You Delete Cookies?
Cookies may not sound like they would cause much obvious trouble, but there are times when it’s a good idea to delete them.
When you delete cookies, either all of them or for a specific website, you won’t lose any information — but you will have to log into a website again. Which sometimes may mean re-verifying who you are.
Oftentimes, when a client tells me they are having a problem logging into a frequently visited website or are otherwise having a problem with a specific website, the first thing I’ll do is delete the cookies (for that particular website).
In the 90s, a company I worked for provided web support for large companies and their websites. The first thing I instructed my crew to do for people who called in with website issues was to delete cookies for that website. We would also have the customer restart their computer and try the website again.
How to Delete Cookies
Here are instructions on how to delete cookies from popular web browsers; the links will open into new tabs: