When you hear the term “cookies,” most likely a version of your favorite delicious baked treat comes to mind. Sorry to disappoint you and your inner blue furry monster, but in this explainer, we’re going to be talking about the less tasty and tangible internet cookie. So, what is an internet cookie and what are they used for?
What is an http cookie?
An HTTP cookie is defined as a small piece of data sent from a website and stored on a user’s computer by a web browser. This occurs as a user travels from website to website. Cookies can also be referred to as a web cookie, a browser cookie, or an internet cookie.
What are cookies used for?
Mainly, cookies are used for remembering and tracking user information to help with different tasks required on many websites. For example, session management, which can include login and shopping cart information.
Cookies also remember user preferences and themes. For instance, if you go to a site available in multiple languages and you select the German version, a cookie can help that website remember your preference for whenever you come back for your next visit.
Tracking user behavior with cookies
Another common use for cookies is tracking user behavior. This may sound scary, but it’s really quite harmless, especially because in most cases, this data is collected anonymously. When we say anonymous, what that means is that each user is essentially a user ID, or string of characters, and is not personally identifiable.
As you travel across the web, cookies can make note of common themes in your browsing behavior. Are you often visiting sports sites? Do you make a lot of purchases for a baby? These are patterns that allow advertisers to better target you. This is why you may often see advertisements for things that interest you.
How can I see what cookies are stored on my browser?
If you are curious about what cookies are being stored on your browser, you can usually find this information somewhere in the browser preferences or settings. Here is a list of popular browsers and their instructions for looking up your cookies:
Most likely, this is also where you can delete your cookies. But a fair warning: if you opt to delete ALL your cookies, you may be setting yourself up for a less friendly user experience when “surfing” the internet. Any stored passwords will be wiped out and all of your settings and preferences will be reset.
Does AddThis track cookies?
Much like the cookies you eat are an asset to humankind, HTTP cookies are an asset to the internet. They help personalize the web experience and make things like online shopping and logging into accounts so much easier and more efficient.