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What are browser cookies? Why are they needed? Types of Cookies

You might have noticed recently that most major websites ask for cookie consent every time you get on their site. Ever since the Europian Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (also known as GDPR) sites are forced to ask consent to store cookies on your computer.

Have you ever wondered what these cookies are? and why these websites are bothering you with them?

What are cookies?

Cookies are small bits of information primarily in text format that are used by the website to identify you, your activity, settings, and customisation on their website. Kind of like a local cache of identity. This is stored in your system and used by the website whenever you visit it.

It helps the website to identify you and recall the webpage’s settings as configured by you. If you clear your cookies, you will be logged out of all the websites and the website won’t remember you or the changes you made.

Cookies are very common and depending on your browsing habits you may have hundreds or even thousands saved on your system right now.

Also read: 7 types of data your browser collects about you

Types of cookies

What are browser cookies? Why are they needed? Types of Cookies

There are seven different types of cookies.

  • Session cookies: These expire either after closing the browser or staying inactive for a period of time.
  • Persistent cookies: These do not expire even after you close the browser. But that doesn’t mean that these stay forever. Persistent cookies are saved for a maximum period of 6 months. These are used to save your login info.
  • HTTP only cookies: HttpOnly is a flag added to cookies that tell the browser not to display the cookie through client-side scripts (document.cookie and others) they are also known as “secure cookies”
  • Flash cookies: A Flash cookie, also known as a local shared object, is a text file that is sent by a Web server to a client when the browser requests content supported by Adobe Flash, a popular browser plug-in.
  • Zombie cookies: A zombie cookie is an HTTP cookie that returns to life automatically after being deleted by the user. Zombie cookies are recreated using a technology called Quantcast, which creates flash cookies to track users on the Internet.
  • First-party cookies: First-party cookies (also known as “HTTP cookies”) are small data packets that your web browser generates and exchanges with a dedicated web server.
  • Third-party: These cookies are installed by third parties with the aim of providing third-party features such as social media buttons, advertising banners or even collecting specific information to carry out various research into behaviour and demographics.

Also read: Internet Safety: Should you trust HTTPS? HTTP vs HTTPS

Where can you find them?

What are browser cookies? Why are they needed? Types of Cookies

Your web browser stores and manages cookies. You can find a list of cookies and the websites that are storing them on your browser’s “cookies” section, which is mostly under privacy & security settings. Each individual browser on your PC carries unique cookies.

Why are they needed?

As we’ve understood, cookies have a number of benefits to them.

  • Cookies store your login information and help you quickly gain access to your accounts without the hassle of entering your credentials every single time.
  • They help the website remember your preferences and customisation settings so that you won’t have to go through the pain of redoing it every time you visit.
  • Cookies allow websites to provide you with personalised content such as recommendations on a content site like YouTube and ads, for example, Amazon will be able to predict that you are running low on wipes and suggest you the same exact brand that you chose last time. Whether you find it creepy or useful is entirely up to you.

In short, cookies make our life easier on the world wide web identifying and adapting to our needs and is something which has had people divided over the years over privacy versus ease of use.

Also read: 15 useful Chrome extensions to get the most out of your browser

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