The Wolf Of The Web

What Are Cookies And Why Do Websites Ask For Them

Cookies are mostly known as one of the most notorious desserts that everyone loves. They are also notorious on the online world and a crucial aspect of how websites work and run. People who are browsing the online world don’t have to think that much into cookies and how they work but if you’ve noticed while on a website it’s telling you that they use cookies, you might be a bit confused and wondering why it’s showing you this information.

Being in the web design business we’ve created and launched many websites over the years so we’ve written this article in simple terms on how you can understand web cookies better and why they are needed for a better user experience on some websites.

What Are Cookies?

Cookies or you may of heard them be known as just web cookies or browser cookies so you aren’t mistaking for a tasty pastry are pieces of data that website serves save to your computer when you visit a website. The name ‘cookies’ come from an old saying for when a packet of data that a program will pass on while not making any changes to it – ‘magic cookies.’

Web cookies save a range of information about your visiting sessions on various websites. There can be many cookies placed on your computer at once from just a single website. When you decide to browse another website, whatever browser you are searching on can send the cookies saved on previous browsing sessions to the website to give it information which can help create a better user experience for you as it has access to browsing data to see what your preferences are.

The website can also read the browser cookies on your computer to take in any information. You don’t have to worry about the hassle or stress of managing any of these so called cookies as your web browser will handle them. Cookies aren’t stored on your system forever aswell as you have the options whether to decline cookies on certain websites plus you can remove any former ones through your browser.

How Are Cookies Used And What For?

As we said before, there are many forms that cookies can be used for and placed on one website that can last different amount of times depending on which cookies are placed. They all have their uses aswell.

The most common one that you might come across is when a website puts a cookie on your computer to track your session on that website. An example is when you are on an eCommerce store and you’ve placed an item inside your cart then clicked onto another a page on the website. Cookies will help keep that product inside your cart as when you’ve added the product to your cart, a web cookie will create the contents of your cart meaning you are free to navigate to another part of the website without losing the contents of your shopping cart.

Cookies like this are temporary and in many cases once you decide to exit the store or close your browser, the cookie will be no more and will restart the site for the next time you visit but sometimes the cookie can lost longer and your cart may still be active next time you revisit the website. These are called ‘persistent cookies’ which will be longer then just a single session.

A common example that you may come across with persistent cookies is that when you visit a website that you often go on, you will be left logged in on your account this is because the website sets a cookie on your computer to remember who you are for next time you come on the site. Saving you the effort of having to constantly re-type your details when logging in.

Both of these examples you come across are ‘first-party cookies’ which are created only by the website you are on but what are ‘third-party cookies?’

Third-party cookies are not set by the current site you are on like first-party ones but they are all over the web. These type of cookies allow ads and analytic servers to gain more insight about you and create a profile based on the interests that you have to create advertisements that are tailored to you.

Due to the nature of these cookies, there is new legislation around the world so that these cookies will have to explained when you visit a site as you may have discovered when browsing websites.

Why Do Websites Ask Me About Cookies?

In short terms – it’s because it’s now the law and sites can face serious action if they save cookies and do not alert you. The law is called GDPR short for General Data Protection Regulation and this law came into effect around in May 2018 by the European Union.

GDPR will explain to you the rules in which a website can use your information and was put in effect to help users have more control about how their personal information was used online. When a website asks you about cookies you have the option to select them all for them to use or you can manage your preferences to which ones you want to share.

Are Web Cookies Unsafe?

Cookies are not a dangerous problem. They are vital in creating a great user experience for people browsing websites across the internet. If you choose to disable all the cookies on a website it could lead to a bad experience on sites that you once enjoyed.

It does go without saying that with anything on the online world that certain things can be used for good and bad. One big problem that comes with cookies is that they will know about your browsing history and this helps gather a profile on you for advertisements and then they can make a trade with other parties to show you hyperrelevant advertisements. You do have the option though to delete these cookies and block them. 

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