Cookies on the internet mean that the messages that are exchanged between web servers and the browser. The main function of cookies is to enhance the browsing experience. The cookies technically contain the user information that is generated by the activity. It can be personal information like name, address, credit card details, etc. or it can be the snapshot of the activities done on any particular website.
The presence of cookies is best realized when you visit any website and start filling a form. Mostly, this activity is done while shopping online. While doing so, you often come across a drop-down menu on each field which gives suggestions basis the letters typed. This auto-fill feature is nothing but the result of cookies. Thus, in a way, the internet user saves time in doing various activities.
The term cookie seems to have been derived from a Unix program called Fortune Cookies. This program actually produces different messages on each instance of running. The cookies on the internet are saved messages that web browser saves in the user’s computer to create a seamless web experience.
The user feels as if the web knows him or her when they use any website as most of the information the browser stores through cookies appears in various instances, such as shopping online, filling a query form, etc.
So, if you think about ‘what are cookies on the internet’, it will give you an explanation pertaining to your previous web experience. every activity performed on the internet generates data, some of which are discrete. The users can find credit card numbers used, shopping cart details, etc. appearing on any form when they try typing.
Like Google saves the user information on their servers and give auto-suggestions basis the browsing histories, cookies give auto-suggestions and sometimes auto-fill the form to help the user in avoiding mistakes or repetition of the process. The basic aim of doing this is to improve the user web experience.
The cookies are showing their utility in helping the users act fast and save time lost in doing repetitive activities. This is useful for:
Cookies help the online selling sites in bringing immediacy in their services. They save the user information in the form of cookies only on their server and pass the information to the computer server when the customer accesses the website. The information is not passed on to any other server, thus, the customer can stay assured of the safety of the personal data.
When users go to the shopping page, they need to see the shopping cart before checking out. The cart page is able to store information due to the cookies that return the information to the user in the same state as fed whenever asked. Thus, e-commerce and the experiences related to it were improved with the help of cookies.
2. Authenticating user:
Security maintenance was one of the other reasons for which cookies were used at the start. The cookie is a small file that helped the websites in knowing if the customer has logged in or out of the website. These also helped in knowing which devices have been used to log on to the website.
If there is any change, the login information is sent to the user on the mailbox registered with the website. Thus, any kind of unauthorized access attempt made on the account is informed to the user along with the IP address; this certainly boosts the confidence of the user while using the web.
3. Tracking user activity:
Tracking cookies were designed to keep track of user’s browser activity. Though this was claimed to be done solely to improve user experience, it breached the privacy norms got the flak in countries like the US and Europe. The authorities there questioned the encryption quality used by the cookies to store pieces of information.
They pointed out that cookies can become a potential target for hackers. A few, therefore, suggested doing browser activity in incognito mode. Tracking the browser activity is considered as notorious as tapping someone’s phone calls without their knowledge. So, tracking cookies proved to be a threat to the users’ privacy as well as to their financial information. The web page, therefore, tells the user in advance about the usage of the cookies and then leaves the decision to the users about going further with the platform.
4. Ensuring fairness of online competitions and voting:
The cookies with the help of their ability to track internet explorer activity can find out the duplicity of the IDs casting online votes. It can prevent duplicate voting by stopping the previous user to vote again. Similarly, going back to any page in online competition does not become possible for the participants as their information collected is registered in the cookie.
Not all cookies store the information permanently. Some do this job temporarily too. These cookies store the information every time you visit the web page. But it does so only till the time users are logged into the browsers are called session cookies or temporary cookies.
The website server will save the cookie only till the time the user is accessing the website for any purpose. Once the user logs out, the cookie is deleted too.
It can help in keeping the computer working speed appreciably. The resources are not consumed by irrelevant information and so the user never finds instances like crashes or slowdowns happening in the computer or browser.
Contrary to session cookies are persistent cookies for which users can fix an expiry date. These cookies help in saving information which is necessary only till a particular time period.
- Erasing cookies and browser information from time to time.
- Always using sites that have HTTPS in the web address. These generate secure cookies that cannot be eavesdropped; thus, information remains in the safe hands.
Cookies on the internet are a mechanism to enhance user experience. These sources of data storage need to be handled with caution. Website owners should ensure high-class encryption while dealing with user information through cookies. The cookies work both in favor of and against internet users. It is up to the internet users to decide how to go about these information carriers to ensure safety in the browsing experience.
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