What are cookies?

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  What are cookies? A "cookie" is a small piece of information sent by a web server to store on a web browser so it can later be read back from that browser. This is useful for having the browser remember some specific information.

What are they used for ? An example is when a browser stores your passwords and user ID's. They are also used to store preferences of start pages, both Microsoft and Netscape use cookies to create personal start pages. Common cookies which companies use are find info are listed below:

Online Ordering Systems. An online ordering system could be developed using cookies that would remember what a person wants to buy, this way if a person spends three hours ordering CDs at your site and suddenly has to get off the net they could quit the browser and return weeks or even years later and still have those items in their shopping basket.

Site Personalization. This is one of the most beneficial uses, let's say a person comes to the MSNBC site but doesn't want to see any sports news. They allow people to select this as an option, from then on (until the cookie expires) they wouldn't see sports news. This is also usefull for start pages.

Website Tracking. Here is a hot button! A lot of people think it is an invasion of privacy, if a web site designer wanted to see what interests them. Site tracking can show you "Dead End Paths", places in your website that people go to and then wander off because they don't have any more interesting links to hit. It can also give you more accurate counts of how many people have been to pages on your site. You could differentiate 50 unique people seeing your site from one person hitting the reload button 50 times.

Targeted Marketing. This is probably one of the main uses of cookies, they can be used to build up a profile of where you go what adverts you click on, this information is then used to target adverts at you, which they think are of interest, companies also use cookies to store which adverts have been displayed so the same advert does not get displayed twice. Doubleclick's use of cookies.

User ID's. In Internet Explorer the first part of the cookie is your windows log in name, It's not certain if this is passed on to the server.

How Do They Work A command line in the HTML of a document tell the browser to set a cookie of a certain name or value. Here is an example of some script used to set a cookie. Set-Cookie: NAME=VALUE; expir es=DATE; path=PATH; domain=DOMAIN_NAME; secure Cookies are usually run from CGI scripts, but they can also be set or read by Javascript.

Security? An HTTP Cookie cannot be used to get data from your hard drive, get your email address or steal sensitive information about your person. Early implementations of Java and JavaScript could allow people to do this but for the most part these security leaks have been plugged. But HTTP Cookie can be used to track where you travel over a particular site, This site tracking can be easily done without using cookies as well, using cookies just makes the tracking data a little more consistent. If you want to disallow cookies you can do so with version 3.0 or greater of Netscape. Go to the Options Menu Select the Network Preferences Menu Item From the window that appears Select Protocols Locate the Section Show an Alert Before Check the box labeled Accepting a Cookie From now on you will get an Alert box telling you that a server is trying to set a cookie at your browser. It will tell you what the cookie value is and how long it will last before it is deleted

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