Cookies: Types and Functions

Cookies are small pieces of data that are stored on your computer or mobile device when you visit a website. They can be used to remember your preferences, such as your login information, language settings, and items in your shopping cart. Cookies can also be used to track your browsing activity across different websites.

In this highly digitalized world, there is a seemingly insignificant but omnipresent presence that greatly influences how the web is experienced: cookies.

They are an essential part of how websites, companies and advertisers shape your online interaction. 

However, behind its apparent simplicity lies a complex world of tracking, customization, some controversy, and a lot of regulation.

In this report, the mystery behind cookies will be revealed, exploring the various types that exist and their role in your digital life. It will also discuss the privacy and security issues that arise in relation to them and how browsers and regulations are trying to address these issues.

What are ‘cookies’?

Cookies are small text files that websites send and store on your browser, such as Google, or device, as you move around the Internet. They contain all kinds of information that websites use to remember certain information about you and your previous interactions with the site.

Imagine you visit a website for the first time and provide your username and password. The site may create a cookie that stores this information in your browser. This way, when you visit the same site again in the future, you won’t have to enter your credentials again, since the cookie will tell the site that you are already logged in.

In addition to credentials, cookies can store a variety of data, such as language preferences, browsing histories, online shopping carts, tracking information, and more. 

Main Uses of cookies?

Simply put, these are used to personalize your browsing experience and make it more efficient. Without cookies, you would have to log in every time you leave a site or rebuild your shopping cart if you accidentally close the page. Creating cookies is an important part of the modern Internet experience. To be more concise, they are intended to be used to:

  1. Session management: For example, cookies allow websites to recognize users and remember their individual login information and preferences, such as sports or technology news.
  2. Personalization: Personalized advertising is the main way cookies are used to personalize your sessions. You may view certain elements or parts of a site, and cookies use this data to help create targeted ads. They are also used for language preferences.
  3. Tracking: Shopping sites use cookies to track items users have previously viewed, allowing sites to suggest other products they might like and keep items in shopping carts while they continue shopping elsewhere on the website. They will also track and monitor performance analytics, such as how many times you visited a page or how much time you spent on it.

While this is primarily for the benefit of the user, web developers also get a lot of mileage out of this setup. Cookies are also stored locally on your device to free up storage space on a website’s servers.

In turn, websites can personalize content while saving money on server maintenance and storage costs.

11 different types of cookies

Different cookies types

Knowing the different cookies can help you choose which ones you would like to allow the next time you visit a website that asks for your cookie preferences :

1. Magic ‘cookies’

Magic cookies were originally used by Unix programmers to authenticate and track users on a system Magic cookies are data tokens that allow servers and web browsers to communicate.

2. HTTP ‘Cookies’

HTTP cookies are the Internet’s version of magic cookiesThey were designed specifically for the web and that is where all modern cookies are derived. Lou Montulli invented HTTP cookies in 1994 to help websites remember users who visit them and relieve the load on web servers.

3. Own cookies

First -party cookies come from websites you visit directly in your browser and are used to improve your online user experience. They often store information relevant to the website, such as what you have viewed in the past or your settings preferences.

As long as you visit authentic and reputable websites, first-party cookies are usually harmless and make it easier to navigate your favorite websites.

4. Third party ‘cookies’

Third-party cookies are probably the most controversial type of cookie in terms of data privacy. They generally track your behavior for advertising purposes and are not directly part of the websites you visit. Instead, they are usually integrated into advertisements, videos or web banners. Even the Facebook Like button uses third-party cookies.

5. Zombie ‘Cookies’

Also known as super cookies , zombie cookies are a type of third-party cookies . However, they are not stored in the same place as normal cookies. So even if a person removes them, they will rise from the dead and be reinstated. They have earned a reputation for being very difficult to remove.

6. Session cookies

These work by storing information while you browse a website. This means you won’t have to re-authenticate for every web page you visit. Once you log out, your browser deletes all session cookies.

Session cookies allow you to add an item to your shopping cart, browse other pages, and then track that item in your cart. These are one of the most common types.

7. Persistent cookies

They are used to track and collect information about you. This particular cookie allows websites to remember if you are logged in and what account you have. They are also used to create a profile in your search history so that websites can recommend products, services or content relevant to you. Most of these cookies usually have an expiration date. 

8. Essential cookies

You’re probably familiar with the ad or pop-up that asks your cookie preferences for a website. Essential cookies are usually an option to run only those necessary to run the website or for the services you have requested (such as remembering login credentials). 

9. Performance cookies

As the name suggests, they track your movements online and that data is used to improve the website . They analyze how many times you visit a page, how much time you spend on it or when you leave the website. This is usually a first-party cookie, but many websites use a third-party cookie to track these parameters.

10. Functionality ‘Cookies’

These allow you to use the fundamental features of a website. This could be anything from your language preference to showing news from your area. They generally improve the performance and functionality of a website.

11. Advertising cookies

Third-party persistent cookies are often used for advertising purposesAlso called targeting cookies, they create a profile of you based on your interests, search history, and items you view. They then share that information with other websites so they can advertise relevant products and services to you.

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