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What is a cookie?

if you read the news every now and then you’ve probably heard of cookies on the internet but what exactly is a cookie when cookies were invented they basically were little documents containing helpful information about you and your preferences for instance imagine selecting a certain language for a website you visit you tell the website hey I’d like to view your website and say English the website would then save that information to a little document a cookie on your computer the next time you visit that website it would be able to read the cookie it saved earlier that way the website could remember your language and let you view the website in English without you having to select your language again pretty handy huh the cookies are not limited to remembering just your language in fact a cookie can contain pretty much any kind of information it can contain the time you visited a website or it can contain the items you added to your shopping basket it can even contain all the links you clicked on a certain website much like leaving a breadcrumb trail on the Internet a cookie can only contain so much text but apart from its size the possibilities are endless what exactly is saved to a cookie is up to the creator of the website you are visiting now contrary to the stuff a cookie can contain there are limits to who can read your cookies imagine you first visit the website we talked about earlier and you tell that website that your language is English this is then saved to a cookie on your computer if you’d visit a different website later the ladder wouldn’t be able to read the cookie from the first website in other words only the same website that saves information to a cookie can access it since the beginning of cookies the popularity of these clever little helpers exploded and they gradually evolved into a more complex yet essential part of the internet during the Revolution the amount of data cookies contain started to grow at first they contain just a few preferences like your language and maybe your preferred layout for a website but soon developers realized that the more information they could store about you the better they could suit your needs cookie started containing more and more data and eventually started pushing their size limitations subsequently developers came up with a clever work around what if they would simply store a unique ID in a cookie on your computer and save the rest of the data in their own system that way they could save unlimited amounts of data the cookie would simply serve as an identifier for your computer much like a dog tag by which the website can recognize you and look up your data in its own system this was the first leap towards so-called third party cookies as mentioned only the same website that save data to a cookie can access it later but one website can actually contain bits of another website these bits and pieces of other websites embedded in the website you’re visiting are actually able to access cookies they save to your computer earlier imagine visiting a news website apart from news articles many news websites contain a couple of ads these ads are in most cases bits of other websites embedded into the news website now the news website you’re looking at may not have saved any cookies to your computer and thus know nothing about you but where do the ads come from it’s not unlikely that the ads on the news website are embedded from the same website as the ads on another website you visited earlier in fact you may visit dozens of websites with ads which are all embedded from the same website.

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