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Browser Cookie: Definition, Function, and the Types

Last updated: Sep 20, 2022

Browser Cookie
Cover image: Illustration of a browser cookie that contains letters and numbers to help a browser access previously accessed web pages. Find out the complete information in this article.

Definition

A browser cookie is a small file, containing characters and numbers stored on a user computer while the user is accessing a web page on the internet.

It is like a virtual key that enters the computer’s memory so that the website can recognize users when they access the website again by opening the door or clicking on various contents or services.

Just like a key, cookies do not contain information, but when recognized by the browser, cookies can help the website to improve its service.

The function of Browser Cookie

It functions as a virtual door lock, it unlocks the computer's memory so the website recognizes the user when readers return to the site by opening the door or clicking through to various content or services.

Like keys, cookies themselves do not contain information, but when it is read by a browser, they can help websites improve the services they deliver.

Some of the other functions that cookies have are:

  • Save login information - users don't have to write username and password repeatedly on the same website.
  • Show relevant ads - You will see ads according to your past browsing activity. For example, if you've just done a search related to SEO, it could be an ad that is shown about an SEO service or tool.
  • Personalized content - just like advertising, if you search for a specific product on the e-commerce web, then other recommended products will also relate to the product you were looking for earlier.
  • Save website settings - cookies will remember the preferences settings you apply to a website. For example, settings related to language or notifications.
     

Types of Cookie

There are two types of cookies: session cookies and persistent cookies. Session cookies are created temporarily in a sub-folder on your browser while you are visiting a website. After leaving the website, session cookies will be erased.

Persistent cookies, on the other hand, stay in the subfolder and are activated even after you leave the website. The cookies stay for a given period of time.

Information Stored

Cookies file are automatically stored in your browser’s memory, with each cookie containing:

  • The name of the server that sends cookies
  • Cookies’ lifetime
  • Value—usually in a unique and random combination of numbers

The server’s site that sends cookies uses these numbers to identify you when you search through pages and return to the site.

Only the sender can read and use the cookies.

Other Terms/Names

web cookie

internet cookie

browser cookie

Etymology

The term “cookie” was invented by a web browser programmer named Lou Montulli. It is from the term “magic cookie”, which is a data plan received and sent back by a program once used by Unix’s programmers.

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