Why do Websites Use Cookies?

We’ve all been to a website that urges us to accept “cookies” before we can continue using the site. In response, most of us mindlessly click “accept” and continue on with our search without thinking twice about what we clicked. But, do you truly understand their purpose? 

And no, we are not talking about the delicious baked treats that come in a variety of flavors and styles… Although that does sound pretty good right now. 

We are talking about website cookies…a completely different, inedible and intangible file that lives on the Internet. 

What Are They?

Web cookies are incredibly important small files that websites send to your device to monitor you and store information about you, such as what is sitting in your shopping cart, your login information, or what sites you have been surfing. They are pieces of information saved about you when you are online. They also track you as you browse. Every cookie holds the website name and an IP address. They can also contain the amount of time you spend on a website, the links you clicked while on that website, accounts you log into, the settings you choose, recording the pages you’ve visited in the past, and some items in your shopping basket. 

For example, let’s say you order a pair of shoes from your favorite online store and you enter your information to have it shipped to your house. If you accept the cookies, it will remember the information that you inputted for the next time you are ordering shoes from that website. 

You, like many others, probably skip over that part where they encourage you to read their cookie policy. Who has time to read the policy anyway? Not you! Especially if you have the Hostirian team to explain fun “techy” stuff (like this) to you! 

What are the Different Types?

There are three different types of web cookies: session, persistent, and third-party. Each web cookie is incredibly different from the next, pursuing their own online goal. They each have their own specific way of collecting, tracking and storing data that companies request. 

Session cookies are temporary cookies that memorize your online activities. Websites have no sense of memory. These cookies are the reason why websites remember you when you return to them. Your website would always be blank without the help of these cookies.

Persistent cookies, which you may also know as first-party cookies, track your online preferences. These cookies work to remember your personalized website preferences and implement them every time you use the website. Persistent cookies remember and store your login information, bookmarks, menu preferences, language selections, and much more. 

Third-Party Cookies, also known as tracking cookies, collect data on you based on your online behavior. They collect many different types of data about you that is then sold to advertisers of the website that created the cookie. It tracks your age, location, and the things you search so that advertisers can create custom ads to place in front of you on other websites. 

Are Web Cookies a Good Thing?

Nowadays, people aren’t sure how they feel about their information being stored. Cookies are a good thing, although it may not seem like it. They are meant to improve the user experience. When you choose to accept them, you will inevitably receive better search results, catered to you. If you refuse to let cookies gather data and track you, then your search results will be more generalized instead of catered specifically to you. 

Some social media platforms even use cookies to track you. Social media giants, like Fakebook, will track the links you click and then use the information to show you relevant ads in the future. 

It’s important to remember that you do not have to accept them. They are required by law to ask your permission, so if you would rather not have them, you can choose to decline! But keep in mind, that websites are allowed to prevent you from using their website if you decline their cookies. Some sites won’t even work as originally intended without cookies. 

You can delete cookies since they are just files stored on your computer. It is important to note that deleting cookies will log you out of most websites and they will make your pages look a little different than they once were. 

To delete them, go to the ‘history’ section on your internet browser and you will see the option to delete cookies. It will also free up a small amount of space on your computer. If you choose to accept cookies, make sure you only accept them from websites you trust! If you’d rather have complete privacy from third-party cookies, then you can choose to decline.