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Cookie

Date Created: 11 Apr, 2008   (11 year(s) ago) Viewed: 937 Rating: 

Overview

The term Cookie derives from "magic cookie", a packet of data a program receives but only uses for sending it again, possibly to its origin, unchanged. Magic cookies were already used in computing when Lou Montulli had the idea of using them in Web communications in Mar 1993.

Purpose
HTTP cookies are used by Web servers to differentiate users and to maintain data related to the user during navigation, possibly across multiple visits. HTTP cookies were introduced to provide a way for realizing a "shopping cart" (or "shopping basket"), a virtual device into which the user can "place" items to purchase, so that users can navigate a site where items are shown, adding or removing items from the shopping basket at any time.

Allowing users to log in to a website is another use of cookies. Users typically log in by inserting their credentials into a login page; cookies allow the server to know that the user is already authenticated, and therefore is allowed to access services or perform operations that are restricted to logged-in users.

Many websites also use cookies for personalization based on users' preferences. Sites that require authentication often use this feature, although it is also present on sites not requiring authentication. Personalization includes presentation and functionality. For example, the Wikipedia Web site allows authenticated users to choose the webpage skin they like best; the Google search engine allows users (even non-registered ones) to decide how many search results per page they want to see.

Cookies are also used to track users across a website. Third-party cookies and Web bugs, explained below, also allow for tracking across multiple sites. Tracking within a site is typically done with the aim of producing usage statistics, while tracking across sites is typically used by advertising companies to produce anonymous user profiles, which are then used to target advertising (deciding which advertising image to show) based on the user profile.

Browser Setting
Described in " How to Enable Cookie " section.

Cookie Expiration
Persistent cookies have been criticized by privacy experts for not being set to expire soon enough, and thereby allowing some websites to track users and build up a profile of them over time. This aspect of cookies also compounds the issue of session hijacking, because a stolen persistent cookie can potentially be used to impersonate a user for a considerable period of time.

Identification
If more than one browser is used on a computer, each usually has a separate storage area for cookies. Hence cookies do not identify a person, but a combination of a user account, a computer, and a Web browser. Thus, anyone who uses multiple accounts, computers, or browsers has multiple sets of cookies.

Likewise, cookies do not differentiate between multiple users who share a computer and browser, if they do not use different user accounts.
*** The above information is for reference only, Please seek independent technical advice if found necessary.
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