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Articles & Tutorials


by Steve Dougan

Summary : Cookies are one of those things on the Net that everyone has heard of and few understand. So what are cookies and why do they exist?

Cookies are created by a Web Server and are stored on your computer as a text file and can be readily deleted from your computer by you at any time. The information contained within cookies is limited to the information you have voluntarily submitted to the respective website that created the cookie. Cookie files do not scan or read hard drives, they do not contain viruses and a Web server can only read the information that it stored to the cookie it wrote.

There is a lot of concern about personal privacy issues related to cookies, but this is more from a lack of understanding of what cookies are then from any real threat. Properly used, cookies can be used to enhance a web site visitors experience to a particular website. When a visitor provides information to the website through forms and the like, the web server can determine what a visitor's preferences are and better deliver website content based on those preferences.

Cookies are also used on websites that have memberships, such as Bravenet.com. When you login to your account, cookies are used to ensure that you see all the information that relates to you and your account. These cookies also ensure that only those persons with the valid login information can view the information in your account and therefore have the ability to change things.

Bravenet, like most major websites, use cookies in the ad serving solution. In these instances, the cookies are employed to ensure visitors see the appropriate advertising in a predetermined volume. This is to ensure that the ads presented can be controlled to a reasonable level and to prevent the same ads being shown over and over again to a particular individual during an individual visit. Without cookies, most visitors to virtually any website would be inundated with horrific volumes of ads. This would both diminish the effectiveness of the ads and be detrimental to the visitors enjoyment of the particular website.

Cookies are used in shopping carts as well. When you are browsing an online catalog and select items that you wish to purchase, cookies are employed to keep track of those choices for you until you are ready to go through the check-out process. In many instances, you can even leave the website and come back later and the cookies will ensure that you pickup where you left off.

Cookies are an important and beneficial tool for webmasters to improve the visitors experience to their website, but they are equally important to the website visitor. Much of the experiences we enjoy when navigating the Net simply wouldn't be possible without them. From this standpoint, cookies are good for you.