Home / Help /  FAQ /  Explaining Cookies

OK, so here is a low-down on cookies:

Every time you ask a server on the Internet for a webpage, your request is sent, and the webpage is returned to you (more precisely your computer's IP address). The webserver simply finds the resource from the webserver, and sends the file to you. Your web browser then displays the file to you, and you read the webpage. Finding a link you would like to visit, you click and begin the process again.

The web server for that site has no way of knowing that you are the same person who hit the webpage earlier. The web server cannot differentiate between you and any other visitor, because it is just like a bank teller that doesn't remember your face, and must ask for ID every time.

Sometimes, web designers would like to let you visit a site, and have you make some choices. Due to the inability of the webserver, there is no way to make those choices "stick". To make this happen, the webserver gives your computer a small text file, a cookie. Within this file, your particular settings, encrypted (jumbled up) passwords, and the like are stored. Next time you return to this website, the cookie is read, and you do not have to re-adjust the website, or chose "Jazz" as your favorite category at "Your Record Club" On-line. The website will remember you, and even that you like Louis Armstrong.

Now that you see how useful cookies can be, you should be forewarned that they have a dark side. They can be used by unscrupulous web page designers and operators to coax you into entering you name, email address, and other personal information, then allowing other (unscrupulous) web site operators to read the cookie. In essence, they could be used to track your movements from site to site, and share your email address among various sites. An example of this is explained at the World Wide Web Consortium's web security FAQ. Personally, I accept all cookies, and am very careful to only give my email address out to sites that I can trust.

Resources on Cookies:

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