What is a cookie?
A cookie is a small file stored on your computer by your web browser. When a cookie is opened, it looks like a random string of numbers, letters and symbols.
What does a cookie do?
Cookies are used to record your preferences for websites. For example, if you were to go to UPS.com and enter that you were in the United States, the website would store a cookie on your computer that says – in computer code – that you said you were from the United States. The next time you visit the UPS website, it would look for that cookie, and rather than ask you where you were from again, it would take you directly to the United States version of the UPS website.
Without cookies, we would have to keep re-entering information on websites every time we visited them. We also would be unable to do online shopping, as our shopping cart would reset every time we clicked away from the purchase page.
What kind of information can be stored in a cookie?
There are four main things that can be stored in a cookie file.
- A Name
- This is the name of the cookie. A cookie cannot have the same name as another cookie, and one website’s cookie name cannot be the same as another’s.
- Site Name
- This is the name of the website or sub-website that made the cookie.
- Expiration Date
- This is just what it sounds like: the date the cookie is set to expire. When a cookie “expires,” it is automatically deleted by the system. Some cookies are set to expire as soon as you close your browser. These session cookies are only stored while you have your browser window open. Other cookies are have a specific time to expire, from a few hours to a few days to a few years. These persistent cookies are stored on your computer until you either manually remove them or they reach their expiration date.
- A Value
- This is the meat of the cookie. This is the information that tells the website how to react when it finds this cookie. This is what tells a website like UPS.com that you are from the United States after entering it on their website the first time.
How to Manage Cookies
All current browsers have tools that will help you remove or block cookies from even being set. Each browser has a different way to delete or block cookies, so what works in one may not work the same in the other.
Please remember, by deleting or blocking cookies, some websites won’t function properly. Blocking cookies will make you unable to put things into an online shopping cart, and clearing cookies will make it so you have to re-enter their stored information when you visit the website again.
How often do you delete your cookies? Or do you just leave them be? Tell us!